Airlines cautiously optimistic on travel demand

Airlines cautiously optimistic on travel demand

Timely mass vaccinations and success of the sandbox model will determine whether tourism and aviation will see a rebound this year

A Nok Air crew member screens passengers during check-in at Don Mueang airport. Pornprom Satrabhaya

The tourism and aviation industries are hoping the country’s mass vaccination scheme can improve travel sentiment and gradually bolster the economy.

The Phuket sandbox model, scheduled to welcome vaccinated foreigners starting July 1, is a big test for airlines with other destinations watching to see if they can bring back international tourists as well.

“After passenger traffic recorded a whopping 90% decrease in May, bookings this month have improved because of vaccinations and less worry regarding the third wave,” said Nok Air chief executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool.

Nok Air has increased the frequencies of flights by 20% this month, up from 30-40 flights per day during the third wave.

For Phuket, the airline plans to operate codeshare flights with Thai Airways to fly foreigners who complete a 14-day quarantine in Phuket to other destinations, offering eight Bangkok-Phuket flights per day to test demand.

Woranate Laprabang, chief executive of Thai Vietjet (TVJ), said the second and third waves happened so close together that every airline had to reduce flight frequencies, including TVJ, which is operating less than 20% of its total flights in December.

“Still, the mass vaccination scheme is a good sign,” he said. “TVJ hopes the government will commit to its goal of vaccinating 70% the population this year.”

Nuntaporn Komonsittivate, head of commercial operations at Thai Lion Air (TLA), said demand has gradually picked up this month as mass inoculations have started and some…

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