Nok Air vows to evaluate Boeing jets

Nok Air vows to evaluate Boeing jets

Airline to weigh passenger reaction

A Nok Air Boeing 737 takes off from Don Mueang airport. The airline plans to expand operations to Suvarnabhumi airport in the second half of this year. (Photo: Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn)
A Nok Air Boeing 737 takes off from Don Mueang airport. The airline plans to expand operations to Suvarnabhumi airport in the second half of this year. (Photo: Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn)

Nok Air plans to gauge passenger sentiment and must be assured of safety before it imports Boeing 737 Max 8 jets to its fleet, as it has already paid the deposit to lease eight aircraft of this type.

Accidents in the Boeing 737 Max family, including the latest incident with an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 jet, prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ground this type across the US.

Many authorities, including the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, followed the FAA's instruction.

Wutthiphum Jurangkool, chief executive of Nok Air, said the airline plans to monitor feedback from passengers and consider FAA instructions before accepting delivery, which is slated for 2025.

Previous incidents with the Boeing 737 Max series did not significantly affect local passenger perceptions, as they still travelled as usual with local airlines that use these jets, he said.

Nok Air is applying for an International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit, which is the standard requirement to commence codeshare operations with other international airlines.

The codeshare strategy is expected to help Nok Air earn reliable income from foreign guests, instead of focusing solely on the domestic market, which generates lower income and can fluctuate because of price wars on certain routes to second-tier cities, said Mr Wutthiphum.

As Thai Airways International (THAI) already merged with Thai Smile and moved all domestic networks under a single umbrella, he said Nok Air discussed with THAI efforts to foster route cooperation, as THAI does not have a large enough fleet to cover the entire domestic market.

In the second half of this year, Nok Air plans to expand operations to Suvarnabhumi airport with 1-2 aircraft, in addition to its hub at Don Mueang airport, carrying inbound passengers on THAI to other provinces.

The cooperation could be upgraded to a codeshare partnership in the future, said Mr Wutthiphum.

THAI holds a 13.28% share in Nok Air, though the majority belongs to the Jurangkool family.

As Nok Air is in a rehabilitation process, Mr Wutthiphum said it will ask major shareholders to inject 600 million baht to help it expand its networks this year.

He said the company wants to import three jets for its 14-plane fleet, which will be used on China and India routes.

"To make a profit, it's almost impossible to rely on solely domestic routes," said Mr Wutthiphum.

"With only 5% of revenue from international routes, comprising three cities in China and one in India, we have to expand internationally to earn a higher yield, increasing this portion to 10%, as it was 2019."

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