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Nok Air could fly international from 2013

After abandoning all of its international flights in 2009, Nok Air could be back on the international arena by next year to finally become the ultra low cost airline that Thai Airways has been looking for a long time.

BANGKOK- The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) recently believed that budget carrier Nok Air, a subsidiary of Thai Airways flying only domestic routes, will soon be back in the international arena. Thai Airways currently owns 49% of Nok, having increased its stake in October 2011 from an original 39%.

Nok Air has been so far concentrating on developing domestic destinations. And with the delivery of seven new aircraft, expansion will first be again on domestic routes but it would also be on regional destinations.

On the domestic front, the carrier will increase flight frequencies and add more routes with the delivery of five new Boeing 737-800 and two ATR 72-500. Among the new routes are Bangkok-Chumphon from October 1st on a daily basis, the re-opening of Bangkok-Buriram (three times a week) and another route which has not been disclosed yet. Nok Air will also increase the total number of frequencies to Nakhon Si Tammarat to five per day instead of four. Nok Air network covers currently 20 destinations, all in Thailand.

With the further delivery of aircraft, Nok Air is also looking again at flying internationally. The carrier served for a brief time in 2008 Bangalore in India and Hanoi in Vietnam. According to Nok Air CEO, Patee Sarasin, the carrier could launch international flights as early as the first quarter of 2013. Nok Air come back on the international arena could help filling a void in Thai Airways strategy for an ultra low fare airline. Thailand national carrier had previously planned to launch a joint venture with Tiger Airways, called Thai Tiger. However, political manoeuvres managed to clip the wings of the future carrier. The joint venture was dissolved last year.

As Nok Air operational costs are far lower than those of Thai Airways and of its new hybrid carrier Thai Smile, Nok Could now become the new instrument to counter AirAsia aggressive development. Mr Patee explained to CAPA that Nok plans to use 737-800s in two-class configuration for the new international .

After looking to establish a fourth new brand in the ultra-low cost segment, Thai Airways board has now decided to fully integrate Nok Air into its segmentation strategy. The ultra-cost brand is now unlikely to fly one day…

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