Thai AirAsia X adds Fukuoka route
Thai AirAsia X has launched a new route operating four times a week from Bangkok to Fukuoka to open up a new tourism region in Japan for Thai travellers.
"Due to issues with IATA Operational Safety Audits during the past six years, Thailand's airline industry ratings suffered," said Nadda Buranasiri, chief executive of Thai AirAsia X.
"Yet AirAsia X has built credibility in operations," he said. "We plan to expand in the near future to Chinese destinations, as neighbouring countries are already our strength."
The airline flies direct from Bangkok's Don Mueang airport to nine cities in four countries -- Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Nagoya, Fukuoka, Shanghai, Tianjin and Brisbane -- using 10 Airbus A330-300 jets.
Japan is a strategic market for AirAsia X because the carrier has been flying there for close to five years, beginning with Tokyo and Osaka, Mr Nadda said.
"We added Sapporo and Nagoya last year, and Fukuoka is our fifth route to Japan," he said. "All destinations have been performing really well so far. Even with flights across all regions of the country, we continue to seek out new routes for Thais and attract more Japanese visitors."
He said that since 2013, when Japan waived tourist visas for Thai travellers, visitors from Thailand have skyrocketed, providing opportunities for network expansion.
Mr Nadda said that whoever forms the next government should make tourism promotion a top priority.
"Fukuoka prefecture has high potential as a destination," he said. "It's the largest city on Kyushu island in southern Japan and a hub of culture, cuisine and natural tourism, characteristics that many urban Thais look for in their travels abroad."
From January to March 2019, 240,000 Thais have visited Japan.
"We're hopeful that Fukuoka will further bolster tourism and the economies of both Thailand and Japan," Mr Nadda said.
A complementary phenomenon is the increase in tourists from Japan.
"In Japan, AirAsia X is increasingly recognised as reliable among Japanese travellers, as affirmed by the 63% year-on-year growth in Japanese passengers in 2018," Mr Nadda said.