Airlines eager to reopen Japan routes

Airlines eager to reopen Japan routes

Local airlines are preparing to add more international flights from Bangkok as Asian countries reopen.
Local airlines are preparing to add more international flights from Bangkok as Asian countries reopen.

Local airlines are banking on borders reopening in Asian countries, but are cautiously planning their routes as a weak currency and high fuel costs still afflict the industry.

Tassapon Bijleveld, chief executive of Thai AirAsia X (TAAX), said Japan's planned reopening on Oct 11 has been a tremendous help in driving load factor for all routes to this country.

The airline's average load factor for its Japan routes already tallied 85-86% and is expected to increase to 90% by the end of this month as demand continues to grow.

"Japan has the fastest growing routes at the moment for every airline that flies to that nation. The advantage for this market is there's less impact from currency exchange as both the Thai baht and Japanese yen are weakening," he said.

Average airfares for Japan routes across the market recorded a surge to 16,000 baht for low-cost carriers. For routes with high demand, particularly Tokyo via Narita airport, airfares could surge to more than 20,000 baht on average because to limited seat capacity and high jet fuel costs.

In response to the demand influx, TAAX accelerated its plan to resume flights to New Chitose airport in Hokkaido to December, while flights to Kansai airport in Osaka were rescheduled to this month from January. Those two routes were suspended for almost three years because of Covid-19 protocols.

Mr Tassapon said the airline will prioritise routes to Japan, with a target to reach the same frequencies as before the pandemic.

Next year, TAAX plans to expand its international flights with the addition of two new jets.

"Surging fuel prices and the weak baht remain obstacles. Fuel costs have gradually decreased from a peak in the second quarter to around US$100 per barrel, but this is still considerably higher than usual rate," he said. "It's also more difficult for airlines to seek fuel supply sources because of the Russia-Ukraine war and fuel shortages in Europe."

According to the International Air Transport Association's jet fuel price monitor on Sept 30, the average price for Asia and Oceania was $113.81 per barrel, a 15% decline from one month ago, but 32% higher than the same period last year.

As Taiwan is scheduled to reopen borders for Thai travellers without quarantine on Oct 13, Thai Lion Air plans to resume flights to Taipei in December this year, starting with five flights per week before adding daily service in January, said Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at the airline.

Thai Lion Air wants to restart its service to Kathmandu in Nepal with three flights per week in November, with flights to Singapore set to restart on Oct 30. Nok Air is reportedly planning to add services to Taipei by early next year.

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