Thai Lion Air readies for take-off

After securing an operating licence on Tuesday, Thai Lion Air (TLA), a strong new player in the competitive low-cost carrier (LCC) market, has declared all systems go for a commercial blast-off on Dec 4.

Thai Lion Air’s second B737-900ER, seen through the window of its first jetliner parked at Don Mueang airport. TAWATCHAI KEMGUMNERD

TLA, part of Indonesia’s giant Lion Air Group, was granted an air operator certificate from the Civil Aviation Department, clearing the last hurdle of the official approval process and essentially allowing TLA to use aircraft for commercial purposes.

A TLA insider confirmed all preparations are in place to support inaugural flights on Dec 4 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta _ three separate non-stop routes.

Two brand-new B737-900ER jets have been on standby at Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, TLA’s home base, since last month, with some 380 employees, mostly Thai nationals, ready to go live.

Current personnel include 22 cockpit staff, 60 cabin crew (all women) and 28 technicians and engineers, said the insider.

TLA is expected to start online ticket sales next week after staging a formal launch in Bangkok next Tuesday at which details of the strategic plan will be announced.

The airline is setting up ticket outlets at three locations in Bangkok _ Big C’s Ratchadamri branch, Nana skytrain station and Centre Point Pratunam.

TLA plans at least 10 sales outlets in the initial stage of operations including a larger one at Don Mueang, where check-in will take place on Row 8.

The carrier expects to offer fares that are competitive with if not lower than those offered by other no-frills carriers, especially Thai AirAsia, the country’s dominant LCC player.

At the start, TLA will operate two daily flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and one daily flight each for Bangkok-Jakarta and Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur, using the two single-aisle Boeings in a 215-seat, all-economy configuration.

The frequency of Bangkok-Chiang Mai will be ramped up to thrice daily and Bangkok-Jakarta service to twice daily once TLA takes delivery next March of its third B737-900ER, also brand-new.

Also in 2014, the no-frills airline will expand its network to connect Bangkok with Singapore, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Delhi and Mumbai.

At home it will cover such destinations as Hat Yai and Phuket.

TLA plans to build up its fleet to 12 planes by year-end, ramping up to 50 within five years, to support its growth plan.

The carrier has set its sights on broader service beyond the core short-haul sector (up to four hours), hoping to cover medium-haul destinations such as South Korea and Japan.

Medium-haul service will be on state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliners starting in 2016, when parent Lion Air begins taking delivery of the aircraft.