Nok Air has Vietnam in sights

Vietnam is looming large on Nok Air’s radar screen under its international revival now that it has established a foothold Myanmar.

Executives of the budget carrier yesterday said it is keen to embark on daily flights from its Bangkok base to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City next year.

The SET-listed airline resumed international service on Sept 1 after a five-year hiatus, offering short hops between Mae Sot in Tak province and Myanmar’s Mawlamyine.

Two other routes to the neighbouring country _ Mae Sot-Yangon and Bangkok-Yangon _ will be introduced next Tuesday and Nov 1, respectively.

“Vietnam is our next descent, likely around mid-2014,” chief financial officer Vitai Ratanakorn told the Bangkok Post.

Nok Air has focused on expanding its domestic service since 2008, when it suspended its loss-making international flights to Vietnam and India. It flew to Hanoi but not to Ho Chi Minh City.

Fierce competition awaits Nok Air’s latest foray into Vietnam, with big names such as Thai Airways International, Thai AirAsia, VietJet Air, Vietnam Airlines, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines offering regular flights from Bangkok to both major Vietnamese cities.

But Nok Air executives believe their airline can slip into a new market segment that is not yet present in that country, one that is between low-cost carrier (LCC) and full-service airline.

Unlike an LCC, which offers bare-bones service but low fares, and legacy airlines, which provide full service, Nok Air is positioned between the two extremes, with free snacks and beverages and a generous baggage allowance.

Cambodia and Laos will be Nok Air’s next international focus.

It is also looking at upgrading its charter service between Bangkok and Nanjing, China, into regularly scheduled service.

Instrumental to Nok Air’s resumption of international service will be expanding its present fleet of 12 Boeing 737-800s.

It will take delivery of two more next month and another four next year.

Shares of NOK closed yesterday on the SET at 23.90 baht, down 70 satang, in trade worth 62.6 million baht.