Direct Bangkok-Sendai flights resume after 5-year hiatus

A Thai Airways International plane receives a water salute after landing at Sendai airport on Wednesday. (Sendai airport Facebook account)

SENDAI, Japan: Regular direct flights linking Bangkok and Sendai in northeastern Japan have resumed after a hiatus of five and a half years, in what is hoped will be a boon to tourism in the region.

A ceremony was held at Sendai airport to welcome travellers who arrived Wednesday morning on a flight operated by Thai Airways International.

Direct flights had connected Sendai and Bangkok between December 2013 and March 2014 but were suspended as factors, including anti-government rallies and political unrest in Thailand, led to a fall in the number of tourists travelling to the Japanese city.

Officials from six northeastern Japan prefectures greeted the plane's passengers upon their arrival with specialty goods including sweets.

Sithichai Sithisathianchai came with his wife and called the direct services "very convenient."

"I had to take a bus from Tokyo to come here (on previous trips)," the 65-year-old said. "I hope to see the fall colours."

"We are thinking about offering flights daily, including those that go through Taiwan and Hong Kong, using aircraft of our subsidiary," THAI president Sumeth Damrongchaitham told reporters after the event. "We would like the good relationship between Thailand and Japan to further develop."

Thai traditional dancers take part in a ceremony to welcome the resumption of Bangkok-Sendai flights at Sendai airport on Wednesday. (Sendai airport Facebook account)

THAI operates three flights a week from Suvarnabhumi to Sendai on Boeing 777-200 jets. Sendai is the sixth destinations in Japan after Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo.

THAI said it is considering continuing the operation of direct flights between the two cities past March 2020.