Charter airline to start scheduled flights

Jet Asia Airways' long-planned evolution from a largely charter operator to a scheduled airline is finally set to take place in September.

 The privately owned Thai airline, founded in 2009, will kick off the transformation with maiden scheduled flights from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport to Narita airport near Tokyo.

China, South Korea and more Japanese cities will follow as the airline builds a scheduled network that connects East Asia to Thailand and Southeast Asia, managing director Chairat Sangchan told the Bangkok Post yesterday.

Though its traditional operations will remain as the airline's core business, Jet Asia aims to see scheduled flights constitute roughly a third of the airline's turnover as soon as the first year.

Plans call for doubling Jet Asia's passenger count to 1 million during the first 12 months of scheduled service.

The airline aims for 2014 revenue of US$250 million, up from $100 million last year.

Mr Chairat said scheduled operations would enable Jet Asia to become more established and expand in the face of intensifying competition.

The airline wants to ramp up its fleet of Boeing 767 wide-body jetliners to 10 by the end of 2014 from the current six to support its growth plan.

Jet Asia's scheduled debut will begin with four flights a week on Bangkok-Narita, a highly contested route with fast-growing traffic.

The service represents a relaunch of Jet Asia's Narita services, which earlier came in charter form.

The previous Bangkok-Narita service was suspended last month because of poor profit margins amid fierce competition.

The Bangkok-Narita scheduled flights will eventually become a daily service.

With its September launch, Jet Asia will join the fray of scheduled airlines on a city-pair that is attracting new players such as Thai AirAsia X, the long-haul low-cost arm of the no-frills AirAsia group, which will offer a daily flight from Don Mueang airport.

But Mr Chairat said Jet Asia will not compete directly with low-cost carriers, instead offering a full-service experience.

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