Thai Airways tapping into growing Mideast market
HAVING celebrated 53 years of service in May and set to complete two decades in the Middle East in November, Thai Airways International is looking forward to major expansion plans.
Somchai Sukkhasantikul, general manager, UAE and Middle East, said: “Currently we operate one daily flight from Dubai to Bangkok and three flights a week from Muscat. By August 16, 2014, we hope to add additional flights with two daily flights from Dubai. For Muscat, we are proposing daily direct flights to Bangkok. At the moment flights from Muscat go via Karachi. We are also looking at restarting three flights a week from Kuwait, which was discontinued two years back. Our key markets in the region are Dubai, Muscat and Kuwait – in that order of importance. Iran is also a prospective market.”
The airline has ordered for six Airbus A380-800 aircraft, equipped with modern technology, products and services. The latest addition to the fleet is the long-awaited A380 which currently flies daily between Bangkok and Hong Kong, Bangkok and Frankfurt and will soon include Bangkok to Tokyo and Bangkok to Paris. Bangkok to London will be added in 2014, and increased flights using the A380 are planned for Osaka and Tokyo.
“Japan is our single, largest market at the moment and we currently fly to five destinations – Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo – whereas within the global market the UK and the rest of Europe represents about 30 per cent of the total revenue,” adds Somchai.
The Middle East has witnessed increases in passenger traffic from Thai Airways’ Dubai base to destinations such as Chiang Mai, with a 54 per cent increase in visitors between October 2012 and February 2013 over the same period last year and an increase of 60 per cent to Phuket during the same period.
Somchai says: “The Middle East is a growing market, being located at the centre of the world. We see a lot of potential in this region. Also, people here have the spending power. They enjoy travelling to Thailand, both for leisure as well as for medical tourism. Another popular segment is the student educational trips. We are hoping to capture this market as we have observed a lot of interest from schools. We conduct awareness workshops and try to educate schools and youngsters about Thai Airways as well as Thailand as a destination. We also escort school groups with the support of travel agents, for educational tours, especially in the north of the country.”
Popular destinations from the region include Koh Samui which has recorded a staggering 194 per cent passenger traffic over the first few months of 2013, and international Asian destinations such as Manila.
Thai Airways connects Dubai and the Middle East with cities throughout Thailand and around Asia, onward to Australia and New Zealand with smooth transfers through the airline’s hub at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.
“UAE nationals, Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese as well as Western expats book use us not just to fly to Thailand but also onwards to Philippines and Indonesia. And that is our main objective – to put passengers to Thailand, and onwards to anywhere that we fly to,” explains Somchai.
With the strong support of its UAE travel agent and reservations office network, Thai Airways operates convenient daily flights departing Dubai early evening for an early morning arrival in Bangkok, returning late afternoon for an evening arrival in Dubai, ensuring that no day is wasted.
Established in July 2012, Thai Smile, a service by Thai Airways, is a regional airline offering additional short-haul flights connecting inbound passengers with flights to domestic destinations such as Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, Phuket and Krabi as well as international destinations from Mandalay to Macau.