BANGKOK, 8 September 2016: Thai Vietjet Air, the latest Thailand-based, low-cost airline and a subsidiary of Vietnam’s Vietjet Air, officially launched its domestic services in Thailand at a media presentation Tuesday.
The airline misfired in the past with its launch announcements, but appears to be ready this time to introduce services to Phuket and Chiang Rai, 15 September.
The airline’s chief engineer, Sathirawat Ponnark, told TTR Weekly that the media launch was the first step towards establishing domestic routes that would feed traffic to the regional network of Vietjet, the joint venture partner.
The venture dates back to 25 June, 2013, when Thai VietJet Air Joint Stock Company Limited registered with a capital of THB200,000,000
In 2014, Kannithi Aviation Co Ltd, the owner of Kan Air, a small commuter airline based in Chiang Mai, was identified as the majority shareholder to meet Thailand’s legal requirement for the joint venture in aviation.
However, in early 2015 Kannithi Aviation president and founder, Captain Somphong Sooksanguan, pulled out of the joint venture and sold most of his shares. Reports suggested he kept just 10% of the stock. Thai VietJet’s investors expected to start domestic services in 2015, but the launch has faced numerous delays.
The airline says it will operate flights from Bangkok to three destinations; Phuket, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. In addition it will fly from Bangkok to Haiphong in Vietnam.
The Bangkok-Phuket daily flight will start 15 September. On three days per week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) the flight will extend from Phuket to Chiang Rai.
A Bangkok -Chiang Mai service will commence, 26 September, with two flights daily.
A flight from Bangkok to Haiphong will start 9 November with four weekly flights on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The airline will use two A320s to serve the routes.
“We will use Suvarnabhumi Airport as our base, which is different from other low-cost airlines that are based at Don Mueang Airport,” the chief engineer explained.
He added: “We expect load factors will be around 70% and increase to 80% once the routes are established.”
Presiding over the announcement ceremony, Tourism and Sports Minister, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, said Vietjet’s decision to invest in the future of Thailand’s aviation will bring additional capacity to the low-cost flight sector in Thailand, and provide Thai people and tourists with a wider choice.
She noted there was an “an ongoing commitment to improve bilateral relations between Thailand and Vietnam in tourism…this development fits with the mission of Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Two Countries, One Destination programme, which has been running since last year.”
Vietjet’s vice president, Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh, said Thailand was the airline’s first international destination and one of the most important markets in the region for tourism and aviation.
VietJet launched its first international service linking Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok back in 2013. Today, it offers three daily flights on the route and has introduced a daily flight from Hanoi.
The airline starts domestic services in Thailand with just two aircraft, but will increase the fleet to three aircraft in time for the Chiang Mai launch. In three years it will increase the fleet to 30 aircraft.
Currently 80% of its passengers are Vietnamese with only 15% Thai and 5% other nationalities.
Vietjet recently became a fully-fledged member of International Air Transport Association (IATA) after receiving the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate two years ago.
Currently, Vietjet has a fleet of 40 aircraft, including A320s and A321s, and operates 350 flights daily.
It operates 53 routes in Vietnam and across the region to international destinations such as Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Myanmar.