Thai Lion Air charts rapid growth path

Thai Lion Air charts rapid growth path

No-frills carrier Thai Lion Air (TLA) has resumed its aggressive growth plan with the launch of new routes and the addition of two jetliners.

TLA, part of Indonesia's Lion Air group, will at the end of next month start five domestic routes, four of them from its Don Mueang base to Udon Thani, Krabi, Phuket and Surat Thani and one from Hat Yai to Udon Thani.

The new routes come as TLA is due to take delivery of two brand-new Boeing 737-900ERs just ahead of the launch of the new routes, raising the total fleet to six.

Its revived growth plan is geared towards matching robust post-coup travel demand in the fourth quarter.

Sales and marketing manager Numpon Rungsawang yesterday said overall Thai travel demand could leap 20% year-on-year.

The low-cost carrier (LCC) sector is growing rapidly, making it timely for TLA to begin its network again, he said.

The airline will offer two flights a day on the Bangkok-Udon Thani and Bangkok-Surat Thani routes, a daily service on the Bangkok-Krabi and Bangkok-Phuket routes and three flights a week from Hat Yai-Udon Thani.

TLA will also maintain its current jet services — seven daily flights each on Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Hat Yai and a daily Bangkok-Jakarta flight.

The airline also operates frequent scheduled flights from Hat Yai to Surat Thani and Hua Hin as well as Medan, Indonesia, all using an ATR 72-600 turboprop.

Mr Numpon said TLA was mulling flights from Bangkok to southern China by the end of this year or early next as it revives its regional expansion, with Shenzhen, Wuhan and Quanzhou on the radar.

In March, TLA began to rationalise its services following a plunge in foreign passenger traffic caused by the political unrest in Thailand.

The LCC, which took to the skies last December, reduced its international trunk jet services and focused on domestic flights whose demand was less affected.

It slashed the frequency on its two main international routes — Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok-Jakarta — in response to weak demand despite heavily discounted fares.

The Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur service was subsequently suspended, as Lion Group decided to let Malindo Air, a Malaysian carrier 49% owned by Lion, take over the route from April 24.

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