VietJet to take to the skies in Sept

The Thai offshoot of Vietnam's no-frills airline VietJet Air plans to start commercial service in September.

The targeted launch of Thai VietJet Air is in line with the progress made in securing an air operator's certificate and other required operating permits from Thailand's Civil Aviation Department as well as the reviving travel business outlook in the post-coup era.

"The political situation in our country has been improving and thus given us much more confidence to start commercial service in early September," Thai VietJet founder Somphong Sooksanguan told the Bangkok Post.

The prolonged political turmoil, which peaked in the first five months of this year, prompted several start-up airlines in Thailand to delay their launches as the civil unrest took its toll on travel demand, particularly from foreign travellers who were advised not to visit the country.

Thai VietJet's business plan including network coverage and marketing strategy is being finalised, while nearly 60 staff including about 10 pilots have already been recruited, Mr Somphong said.

The airline is most likely to begin with flights from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport to Chiang Mai and Phuket, where flight slot allocations are limited due to heavy air traffic.

There will be two aircraft — both Airbus 320-200 single-aisle jets — operating Thai VietJet's routes this year, and more will be added later when the operation expands.

The jets will come from VietJet Air, which owns 49% of Thai VietJet, with the remaining 51% owned by Kannithi Aviation, part of the Kannithi conglomerate, whose core portfolio lies in debt-collecting firm Kannithi Co and also includes commuter airline Kan Air.

Kannithi Aviation and VietJet Air formed the partnership to set up Thai VietJet last June, and early this year it said the new airline would take to the skies in mid-2014.

Thai VietJet's entry will intensify competition in the highly contested low-cost airline market in Thailand, which is predominantly controlled by two major operators — Thai AirAsia and Nok Air.

It will also consolidate the position of VietJet Air, which has been operating regular flights between Suvarnabhumi airport and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi since last year using A320 jets.

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