"WHILE a shortage of aircraft is deterring Thai Airways International from opening new routes,
two privately-run airlines are capitalising on the growing number of tourists visiting Thailand by
adding new international routes this year. Beer tycoon Piya Bhirombhakdi's PB Air is preparing
to open its first transcontinental route, Bangkok-Sweden. Meanwhile, Angel Air, the second
national carrier, is planning three new international routes: Bangkok-Kunming, Bangkok-Osaka
and Bangkok-Seoul. PB Air is recruiting 80 to 120 flight attendants for its first European route,
which should begin by the end of the year. Jothin Pamon-montri, president of PB Air, said that
the airline was applying for traffic rights from the Department of Aviation to operate four
Bangkok-Sweden flights per week. "We will lease two big aircraft for the route. We are
considering Boeing 747-300, Boeing MD-11 and Airbus 340-300 aircraft," he said. PB Air
operates four small Fokker28 jets for its Bangkok-Roi Et and Bangkok-Krabi routes.
Angel Air is launching its flights to the three northern Asian destinations in cooperation with
China Northern Airlines. It will begin flying from Bangkok to Kunming next month. "The new
route to Japan will begin in June or July, while the route to Korea is expected to begin this winter,
" said Somchai Bencharongkul, president and chief executive officer of Angel Air.
Angel Air currently only flies from Bangkok to Hong Kong with a single Airbus 300-600. The airline
has also applied for traffic rights to run Bangkok-Taiwan flights from Taiwan's aviation agency. The
flights might begin next year, Somchai said. "We will lease one more Airbus300-600 from China
Northern Airlines for the new routes," he said. The Chinese partner will be providing about 30 per
cent of passengers for Angel Air's Bangkok-Hong Kong route, he added. Somchai said the
competition in the northern Asian market was less than in the southern region, which was
predominantly controlled by three major airlines: THAI, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines.
Angel Air's monthly revenue is about Bt80 million. The airline would probably make its first net
profit this year, after more than three years of operation, its president said. THAI, which has
more than 80 aircraft in its fleet, has not begun flying to any new transcontinental destinations
for many years. Two more Boeing 747-400s will be added to its fleet in the middle of this year,
but these will replace the four old MD-11 planes, and no new routes will be introduced."
BY CHOOSAK JIRASAKUNTHAI
Check www.PBAir.com for more information