Aviation regulators will speed up approvals for airlines seeking to add planes to boost capacity and bring down airfares that have soared in recent months with a rapid recovery in tourism, a government spokesman says.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Ministry of Transport to ensure travellers were not overcharged, spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement on Saturday.
Ticket prices have soared as domestic passenger volume jumped 85% in the first quarter from a year earlier, while international traffic surged about 54% and airlines were unable to expand their fleets fast enough to meet demand, Mr Anucha said.
Airlines worldwide have faced numerous challenges in getting back to full capacity now that the Covid-19 pandemic has passed. In addition to labour shortages, they have faced high costs related to bringing jets back into service, as some had been idled for more than two years. Airports too have struggled to find enough staff to deal with increased passenger loads.
The government will help carriers increase the number of seats on both domestic and international routes in line with market demand, which may also allow them to reduce ticket prices, Anucha said.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) is in the process of approving requests by the local units of LionAir, VietJet Air and Thai AirAsia to add more jets to their fleets, Mr Anucha said. Thai Airways International has also sought permission to operate six more aircraft, he said.
The regulator will monitor airfares and hold regular meetings with airlines to ensure reasonable ticket prices, he said, urging people to book their tickets in advance to avoid paying exorbitant prices.
The country has seen a better-than-expected recovery in foreign tourists this year with the Southeast Asian nation forecasting full-year arrivals to total about 30 million, more than double the 11.2 million last year. That has sent prices of hotel rooms, air tickets and food soaring, prompting authorities to caution operators against overcharging visitors.
The Airlines Association of Thailand (AAT) earlier urged the government to lower the fuel tax and service fees at airports amid concerns over a potential increase in fuel prices.
World oil prices have been climbing again after the Opec+ alliance surprised the market by announcing further reductions in output in addition to the 2 million barrels a day they are already keeping off the market to support prices.
AAT president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said, however, that a spike in airfares should not be a critical concern as long as the CAAT is able to regulate fares through the ceilings it has set.