What do people think about the following news article re Thailands new low cost competitor and its connection to the Prime Ministers Family.
warns Thai Airways to shape up
Source: BANGKOK AFP
Date: 2003-Nov-14 06:11 AM
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Thursday warned national carrier Thai Airways to brace itself for the launch of new budget airline AirAsia Aviation which is half-owned by his family company.
"Everybody must adjust themselves, in the near future there will be no monopoly and every business sector will be liberated," he told reporters.
Thai Airways is expected to be adversely affected by AirAsia which in January will begin cut-price services to popular destinations including the northern city of Chiang Mai and the holiday island of Phuket.
These routes were once the lucrative preserve of the national flag carrier which has been repeatedly criticised by Thaksin who accuses it of poor service and failing to respond to government policy.
Thaksin said AirAsia will benefit the less well-off flying public while in its domestic operations Thai Airways will be relegated to servicing the niche market of upscale services.
"Thai Airways has its strong point with the overseas routes, and still has premium customers, therefore it will serve the high-end market," he said.
AirAsia is 51 per cent owned by Shin Corp., the telecoms conglomerate which made Thaksin a billionaire. Control of the company was shifted to his family before he took power in January 2001 elections.
The other partner in the venture is budget Malaysian carrier AirAsia which has denied it chose Shin Corp. because of its links to Thaksin.
However, there have been questions raised over the prospect of an airline with close links to the prime minister directly competing with the national carrier.
Campaign for Popular Democracy spokesman Suriyasai Katasila told The Nation newspaper on Thursday he believed Shin Corp. was planning to eventually take control of Thai Airways and called on Thaksin to protect the carrier.
"There is a clear conflict of interest. The new airline will be operated by the Shinawatra family, and it is bound to be given special privileges by the government," he said.
"If Thai is taken over, there will be no competition anymore. The low-cost concept will be finished and the Thai people will have no choices anymore," he said.
The controversy has erupted ahead of a major Thai Airways share offering later this month which will reduce government ownership in the carrier from 93 per cent to 70 per cent.
Brought to you by AAP.
© 2003 AFP