Thailand expects to see over 1.3 million flights next year, following the government's recent announcement of a visa-free policy for Chinese, Kazakh, Indian and Taiwanese tourists, said Deputy Minister of Transport Surapong Piyachote.
He revealed after a meeting with executives of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand Ltd (Aerothai) yesterday that the ministry aims to maximise air traffic flow management, facilitating more incoming international flights to Thailand in the future.
According to Aerothai, there were about 720,000 flights from Oct 1 last year to Sept 30 this year. However, the number of flights to Thailand is nearing pre-pandemic levels and will reach up to 1.2 million flights by the end of this year. Aerothai forecasts that flight numbers will rise by 20-30% next year, or to about 1.3 million flights, due to the free-visa policy.
Indian and Taiwanese nationals are exempt from visa applications from Nov 10 to May 10 of next year. It is estimated that an extra 900,000 Indian nationals and 400,000 Taiwanese nationals will visit during the six-month visa-free period.
Mr Surapong said that some transport operators have filed licence applications to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand for seaplane operations. Aerothai reported that Siam Seaplane Thailand was among the applicants who plan to operate a seaplane service on Lipe island in Satun province.
The transport minister added that he had assigned Aerothai to study related laws to cover seaplane routes and operations by December. The service will target passengers with high purchasing power who can afford privacy and luxury.
"[The seaplanes] will be in service on domestic routes connecting the mainland to the islands. I believe that business will grow larger as tourist demand will rise in the future," said Mr Surapong.
Aerothai president Noppasit Chakpitak said that Aerothai is prepared to support the government in attracting international tourists by maximising the capacity of international airports.
Aerothai has trained its air traffic controllers to manage high-intensity runway operations, which will allow Suvarnabhumi airport's air traffic to increase from 68 flights per hour to 94-104 flights, he said.
Moreover, Don Mueang airport will be able to manage 57 flights, up from 50 flights per hour, if its third runway is completed by the end of next year. Meanwhile, Phuket airport's new terminal will allow it to handle 25 flights, up from 20 per hour by the end of next year.
Mr Noppasit added that Aerothai has joined hands with China and Laos to create air routes which cater for more regional flights.