Thai AirAsia X eyes post-coup expansion

Thai AirAsia X (TAAX), Thailand’s first long-haul low-cost carrier, is looking to launch an aggressive expansion as the post-coup situation appears to brighten the aviation outlook. 

TAAX, which is scheduled to take to the skies on June 17 from its Bangkok base at Don Mueang airport to Incheon, South Korea, expects to switch from its current conservative growth plan to a more aggressive one over the next two months, chief executive Nadda Buranasiri said yesterday.

He said market response to the ticket sale for its second destination, Japan, would be a crucial factor in whether the airline geared up.

TAAX is due to start a sales campaign for its two Japanese routes — Narita and Osaka — next month before flights start towards the end of August.

The airline’s business plan was mapped out when Thailand was gripped by prolonged political unrest that reached an impasse and took a heavy toll on the tourism and airline industries.

Mr Nadda, 51, said the airline business environment seems to have improved since the May 22 coup, as the overall situation was becoming stable enough to boost travel sentiment.

“The business community wants a political situation that is stable and predictable, and airlines like us are no exception. We’re seeing good things coming our way,” he said.

In the pipeline for possible acceleration are the introduction of service to Chinese destinations such as Habin, Shanghai and Beijing.

Another possibility is to add more frequent flights on its South Korean and Japanese routes.

On the radar screen in the more distant future is Australia, Mr Nada said.

The airline’s network expansion is geared towards cities popular among Thai travellers in terms of attractiveness, food and culture, with convenient entry access in terms of easy or no visa requirements.

Those criteria are present for its first two launch countries — Japan and South Korea — now prominent on many Thai tourists’ maps.

TAAX has been able to record a high 80%-plus cabin factor in bookings for its first route from Don Mueang to Incheon airport in the three-month period after its launch.

The airline is on track to offer daily service to Narita airport and five flights a week to Kansai airport in Osaka.

TAAX has two leased wide-body A330-300s with 377 seats to support its planned services to South Korea and Japan.