THAI Smile eyes flights to Kaohsiung

Korakot: 'Process may take some time'

THAI Smile aims to launch flights to Taiwan's second largest city of Kaohsiung in the second half of this year.

The wholly-owned subsidiary of flag carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) has never operated flights to Taiwan before, and only China Airlines offers the service between Thailand and Kaohsiung with five flights per week, said Korakot Chatasingha, director of THAI's sales department.

"THAI stopped flying to Kaohsiung some time ago. Now we see this is a potential market since Thais are no longer required to seek visas before entering Taiwan," said Mr Korakot.

THAI operates flights to Taiwan's capital Taipei, while Thai Smile would serve customers flying to Kaohsiung, he said, adding "This will strengthen synergy between the two airlines".

THAI Smile is in the process of seeking permits to launch the flights to Kaohsiung with a frequency of 4-7 flights per week, Mr Korakot said.

He noted the process could take some time but a clear picture is likely to emerge in the second half of this year.

The airline is also seeking permits to operate flights to Cebu in the Philippines, and the issue is likely to be settled in June, he said.

THAI's domestic flights cover Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui and it was unlikely to expand to more destinations, Mr Korakot said. Thai Smile and Nok Air, however, would operate flights to other provinces to compete with other low-cost airlines, he noted.

Mr Korakot said around 20% of THAI tickets are sold online and sales have continued to rise through this channel, adding the company has set a target of 30% of ticket sales to be processed online by the end of this year.

The company's ticket sales were solid in January and February, with a cabin factor of above 80%, he added.

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