THAI banks on Songkran to fill seats

Thai Airways International is pinning its hopes on the Songkran festival next month to attract more passengers as it struggles with falling revenues.

THAI acting president Chokchai Panyayong said on Wednesday the national carrier expected the cabin factor in April to increase to 72% as the national new year holidays could draw more tourists to Thailand.

The airline's passenger load factor hovered around 80% in the first quarter of last year but dropped to 71.5% in January and 70% last month largely due to the ongoing political unrest.

It expected the cabin factor in March to be in the similar percentage range as the first two months of the year, Mr Chokchai said.

The caretaker government lifted the state of emergency last week but the acting president said it was too soon to see positive signs for the airline.

"Passenger volume has sharply dropped and there is no signal for a rebound despite the lifting of the emergency decree," he said after a board meeting.

The state of emergency factored in on the tourism sector as foreign tourists switched to other destinations away from Thailand due to concern about safety.

The board meeting was the first for new chairman ACM Prajin Juntong amid pressure from the THAI union to oust his predecessor Ampon Kittiampon from all roles in the firm.

About 200 union members held banners and rallied at the THAI head office to attack Mr Ampon, who still retains his position as a board member, for his failure to end THAI's plunging passenger rate.

Union leader Damrong Waikhanee handed over a letter to the Royal Thai Air Force chief calling for the board to reconsider its decision on Feb 21 to extend Mr Ampon's board membership after his tenure expires on April 29.

But Mr Chokchai said the union demand was not on the table in the board meeting on Wednesday.

The new chairman stressed better planning and clear strategies from airline executives in their efforts to take THAI out of the red.

Mr Ampong was forced to resign the chairmanship after the airline's poor performance. He was succeeded by ACM Prajin on March 10.

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