Local airlines are gearing up for fierce competition to capture limited domestic demand, with Thai AirAsia (TAA) officially making a U-turn to Suvarnabhumi airport and an existing tenant, Thai Vietjet, digging in with plans for more routes.
Chief executive Santisuk Klongchaiya said TAA will continue to seek new opportunities to maintain leadership in the market and help stimulate the economy.
He said Suvarnabhumi airport provides easy access to the city centre and high potential for international connecting flights in the future.
From Sept 25, TAA will commence operations at Thailand's biggest airport with four new routes: Chiang Mai (five daily flights), Phuket (three daily flights), Krabi and Surat Thani (two daily flights each).
TAA will become the first airline to operate a twin hub in Bangkok as it expands domestic flights from Don Mueang airport.
Moreover, the new aviation hub will help pave the way for the airline to serve potential tourists and enable TAA to take full advantage of its aircraft fleet.
TAA is not a first-timer at Suvarnabhumi. It moved operations to the airport once before, in 2006, together with all airlines under the direction of a government pushing a single-airport policy for Thailand.
Those attempts were unsuccessful, as high operating costs and congestion at the airport in Samut Prakan chased most low-cost carriers back to Don Mueang, including TAA in 2012.
But during the pandemic when borders remain closed to international flights, Suvarnabhumi can provide more slots and space for domestic carriers.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh, Thai Vietjet (TVJ) chairwoman, said the future of international tourism remains hard to predict, but the situation presents a chance to open more new domestic routes.
TVJ has to use its entire fleet of 11 jets for domestic network extension to help drive domestic tourism.
The airline, based at Suvarnabhumi, recently introduced flights to Udon Thani, Hat Yai, Khon Kaen and Nakhon Si Thammarat. Flights to Ubon Ratchathani are scheduled to start in September, followed by Surat Thani in October.
Ms Binh said the airline expects to provide 13 domestic routes in total, covering 11 destinations nationwide.
Thai Vietjet also came up with campaigns to capture domestic demand, including the five-baht campaign for the new route from Bangkok to Khon Kaen.