2018: Challenges face Thai airlines

BANGKOK, 18 December 2017: We heading for the festive season, looking forward to a holiday break with friends and family. It’s a great time of the year for reflection as we approach 2018.

The International Air Transport Association tells us airline profits should soar in 2018 although it warns of higher fuel costs.

Passenger numbers are on the rise, heading for 4.3 billion in 2018, and passenger revenues could hit USD581 billion. For Thai airlines the promise of soaring profits is good news after the rough and tumble of a very competitive 2017 in the domestic aviation arena.

If I had a wish list it would be to see Thai airlines review their hub and spokes mentality that forces provincial residents to fly via Bangkok’s congested airports and pay for two flight sectors rather than one. That was fine when Bangkok was the only source of outbound travellers.

Now thousands of residents in provincial capitals around the country have the spare cash to explore Thailand and its neighbours. But they don’t relish a transfer through Bangkok, or the additional cost of two tickets, plus surcharges and taxes.

Thai airlines should be catering to an emerging demand from provincial residents, who want to travel the fastest way to their holiday destinations. They want direct flights.

For example, the daily direct flights from Chiang Rai to Hat Yai and Phuket are always packed contradicting the critics who said up-country folk don’t take vacations. Yet, there are thousands of northern residents, who have yet to holiday at the seaside. Just give them the right fare and a convenient flight and the travel bug bites. It’s a two-way channel; southerners, too, are keen to travel north to explore different cultures and food.

This trend is already playing out between Chiang Mai and destinations in southern Thailand and neighbouring Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore.

It’s happening in Hat Yai with a new direct service on Jetstar to Singapore and in 2018, the travel bug will bite in other important Thai cities. Direct services will link Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani to popular tourist destinations such as Pattaya and Phuket, skipping Bangkok.

2018 should be a year when the travel industry broadens its horizons, rethink campaigns and begins to tap the vast potential of vacation travel in towns across Thailand.


  1. They could also review the food which has been getting progressively worse for the last 2 years. As a frequent passenger I know what’s going to be on the menu most the time .. and its usually terrible. For a nation that prides itself in its food, that is not reflected in the national airline’s fare. The taste-like-cardboard pastries between Vientiane and Bangkok are simply better used as paper weights. Most of the time they are cold. I would prefer a yam (salad), and they have long given up serving wine on that leg. I also hate the Dreamliners tinted windows, as I am one who likes to look down and see the world. The manual control is often illusory.The staff are usually wonderful but stressed.

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