Airline 

Thailand-based carrier starting Shanghai flights

NokScoot Airlines to expand presence in nation’s burgeoning travel market

Low-cost carrier NokScoot Airlines, a joint-venture between Thailand’s Nok Air and Singapore’s Scoot, on Tuesday expanded its footprint in China with direct flights between Shanghai and Bangkok.

Set up in 2014, Thailand-based NokScoot already flies to Nanjing in Jiangsu province, Qingdao in Shandong province, Tianjin, Shenyang and Dalian in Liaoning province, Chongqing, and Xi’an in Shaanxi province on the Chinese mainland.

NokScoot is initially operating four weekly flights from Bangkok to Shanghai, with frequency becoming daily from March 4. The carrier will use widebody Boeing 777s with a total capacity of 415 seats on the route. Company officials remained confident that the new route will not only boost its presence, but also enable it to tap into China’s burgeoning travel market.

Yodchai Sudhidhanakul, CEO of NokScoot, said currently more than 60 percent of its network operates in China, and the country is its most important market. “The China market will always be our biggest market in terms of numbers,” the CEO said.

More and more Chinese and international airlines are adopting the low-cost model and launching flights between Chinese cities and Southeast Asian destinations in recent years.

AirAsia launched 12 new routes to Chinese cities including Kunming, Chongqing, Xi’an and Chengdu last year after entering the China market 15 years ago, according to industry reports. The carrier currently operates 74 flights to Chinese cities.

Jetstar Asia has been offering direct services between Singapore and Xuzhou in Jiangsu province since January. It has 80 weekly flights to six destinations on the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to a China Aviation Daily report.

“Along with Chinese people’s consumption upgrade, we have seen a growing number of Chinese people opting for overseas travel, with Southeast Asian nations the top choices,” said Yuan Ding, an industrial analyst from China Merchants Securities.

“Low-cost aviation is becoming popular globally,” said Yuan.

“There is tremendous growth potential in China as less than 10 percent of the population hold passports. This offers huge prospects for carriers,” said Sudhidhanakul from NokScoot.

Less than 2 to 3 percent of the Chinese population take international flights in a year, and only 10 percent or so take a flight every year, according to Yuan from China Merchants Securities.

In comparison, about half of US citizens travel by air annually. So there is a huge market potential in China’s air travel and low cost aviation markets, he said.

“Thailand has become a top destination for Chinese tourists, thanks to the growing travel demand. The number of Chinese tourists traveling to Thailand stood at 10.5 million last year, up 7 percent on a yearly basis,” said Sasirit Tangulrat, consul-general of Thailand in Shanghai.

“We have crossed the 10 million mark… the second is 1 million plus, so there is a huge gap between China and the rest,” added Sudhidhanakul.

This article was originally published by the much-respected China Daily and image via NokScoot Airlines

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