Mae Hong Son loses air service
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Mae Hong Son loses air service

Tourism sector seeks ways to offset impact from Nok Air's cancellation of money-losing flights

Mae Hong Son loses air service
“Tubing” on the Pai River is a big draw in Mae Hong Son. (Photo: TeawMaehongson Facebook Page)

MAE HONG SON: Local tourism authorities are developing plans to help the northern province’s tourism sector after Nok Air stopped its direct flights there as they were losing money.

The carrier’s direct commercial flights to Mae Hong Son ended on Wednesday.

Chanakhet Boonyakhan, senior president of the Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber was working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to address problems caused by the flight terminations. It will try to persuade Bangkok Airways to fly to the province.

She said not having an air service will affect the province’s tourism and its development as well as the country’s overall economic growth.

Now tourists can only reach the province via three rural roads from Chiang Mai, she said.

Acting Sub Lt Panuwat Khadnak, director of the Mae Hong Son office of the TAT, said a visit to the province by road requires a six-hour drive from Chiang Mai instead of a 50-minute flight from Chiang Mai or a two-hour flight from Bangkok.

However, there are some advantages to travelling via road, according to Panudech Chaisakul, president of the Mae Hong Son Tourism Business Association.

It lets tourists appreciate the province’s scenery. He also said increased road travel is an opportunity to spread income to local communities as most visitors enter the province in the high season from November to February, with 70% heading only to Pai district.

Nok Air has also decided to end all its flights nationwide using 50-seat De Havilland Canada Dash 8 Q400 aircraft and is returning them to the lessor.

The carrier suffered financial losses from its use of the Q400 over eight years, according to a Nok Air statement.

The cost of Q400 maintenance and the planes’ limited competitiveness against larger models, such as the Boeing 737, made them not financially viable, it said.

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