The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said on Tuesday there was nothing unusual about airlines cancelling their flight slots during periods of low travel demand after a number of Chinese airlines decided to return their take-off and landing rights at the nation's main aviation gateways.
CAAT director Suttipong Kongpool made the remark after a report found over 40% of flight slot cancellations across Thailand's airports were requested by Chinese airlines.
He said airlines regularly do so to ensure profitability and that, so far, the requests were made in line with existing regulations.
Under International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations, airlines that wish to return their assigned slot at an airport must inform the relevant authorities at least seven days before the intended date. Airlines which fail to operate services while holding a flight slot may face fines or even be barred from flying to the destination airport.
Mr Suttipong said the airlines are returning their take-off and landing rights at Thai airports because the demand from Thailand's main tourism markets has yet to recover.
China, as one of the largest contributors of foreign tourists to Thailand, is also experiencing sluggish economic growth, he said.
There are 21,923 flight slots available between December and January 2024, 13,278 of which have been taken up by airlines, according to the CAAT.
The unused slots, Mr Suttipong said, will be given to airlines from other regions, such as Western Europe and Scandinavia, which have expressed interest in securing landing rights in Thailand.
However, as these markets are not likely to be able to make up for the loss of foreign tourists from China, the government is looking at other markets, such as India, Kazakhstan, Russia and Taiwan.
This year, Chinese tourists accounted for only 12.9% of international arrivals to date. It is expected that the proportion will increase to 15-16% in next year, according to Airports of Thailand.