THAI Smile expanding India routes

THAI Smile is set to add more direct flights to India to cash in on growing visitor numbers. (Bangkok Post photo)

THAI Smile, a wholly owned subsidiary of Thai International Airways, is set to add more direct flights to India to cash in on growing visitor numbers.

The inaugural direct flight for Ahmedabad-Bangkok, the airline's seventh route in India, will take off from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in route to Suvarnabhumi on Oct 28. The route is scheduled to have four flights a week.

Chief executive Charita Leelayudth said THAI Smile is expanding routes to India and offers 38 weekly flights to seven cities: Gaya, Varanasi, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mumbai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.

"We have enjoyed growth of both inbound and outbound passengers, leading to an increased cabin factor on every route," Ms Charita said. "In some periods this year, the number rose to more than 85%. Overall, THAI Smile has seen growth of around 20% on Indian routes, reflecting more Indian arrivals in Thailand."

Arrivals from India have expanded significantly after the Thai government waived the 2,000-baht visa-on-arrival fee for 19 nations, including India and China, until the end of next April.

The Tourism and Sports Ministry said 1.31 million Indians visited Thailand in the first eight months of this year, up 25.4% year-on-year. With the strong pace, arrivals are projected to reach 2 million this year, up from 1.6 million in 2018.

Ms Charita said passengers fall into many categories, including businessmen, tourists, Indians with family in Thailand and couples coming for weddings or honeymoons.

Many of the Indian cities served by THAI Smile are attracting a new generation of Thai tourists who are interested in novel destinations.