Nok Air spreads wings with debut in China
Launch competes with Lion Air and AirAsia
Nok Air has solidified its intentions to extend its footprint into China with the planned debut of scheduled flights to Kunming and Guangzhou.
Patee: 'Zeroing in' on high-end passengers
China will drive the SET-listed budget airline's accelerated international network expansion, expected to provide an impetus for future growth.
While the airline is still finalising the launch dates, timetables and fare structures for its Kunming and Guangzhou services, Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin told the Bangkok Post that flights are due to commence in December.
China will become the third foreign country in Nok Air's international network to be served from the carrier's Don Mueang airport hub, after Myanmar (Yangon) and Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City).
"China is clearly a very big market with significant traffic flow," Mr Patee said.
Nok Air's launch comes on the heels of rival Thai Lion Air's announcement of a daily scheduled flight to Guangzhou, also from Don Mueang, starting on Oct 28.
Nok Air will also be pitted against Thai AirAsia, which has operated flights from Don Mueang to Guangzhou and Kunming for some time.
Mr Patee said Nok Air is zeroing in on high-end passenger traffic for its Chinese services, rather than focusing on volume, which is usually the key operating principle of a no-frills carrier.
Thailand saw a 71% jump in Chinese visitors last year to 7.9 million, making it by far the largest source market for Thailand's tourism sector and it is expected that the number will soar to over 10 million this year.
Sources familiar with Nok Air's operations said the airline is expected to start its Chinese foray with 3-4 flights a week for each route, moving to a daily basis later.
The Chinese flight launch comes as the airline increases its jet aircraft capacity. Its Boeing 737-800 fleet will be ramped up to 23 aircraft by year-end.