Budget long-haul carrier Thai AirAsiaX will launch a daily direct flight between Bangkok and Sapporo, Japan, ending a monopoly enjoyed by national carrier Thai Airways International for more than two years.
AirAsia will begin flying the northern Japan route on May 1, according to the airline's chief executive Nadda Buranasiri.
Starting from March 26, the airline also will increase the frequency of its Bangkok-Tokyo route to two flights per day. And its flights to Osaka will become daily, up from five times a week. As the result, TAAX will have four daily flights to Japan.
He said the airline initially carried about 80% Thai passengers, but the ratio has dropped to around 65%, with the rest Japanese. The company expects to fill half their seats with Japanese customers in the future.
Mr Nadda said the company would obtain new aircraft to serve the Sapporo route, possibly taking delivery by the end of the year. It also may offer new destinations in Japan, he said.
In the second half of 2014, Thai AirAsia X recorded around 1.5 billion baht in revenue, 36.4% higher than its target of 1.1 billion baht. It projects six billion baht in income in 2015, thanks to new routes and more flights.
Based on information from the Japan National Tourism Organisation, 657,000 Thais visited Japan in 2014, up 45% from 2013. About 50% of Thai visitors travelled with tour groups and the rest visited the country on their own.
To promote the new route, the airline will offer 10,000 seats at 3,990 baht for booking from today until Sunday. Travel must occur between May 1 and March 26 next year.