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AoT, already struggling, deny investing in faltering Thai Airways



PHOTO: thaivisa

“We’ve got enough problems of our own.”

Airports of Thailand is denying claims that it is interested in acquiring a stake in the financially floundering flag carrier Thai Airways, saying that they too are struggling with the sharp drop in revenue after airlines and airport shutdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thai Airways, once considered one of Asia’s most luxurious airlines, has grounded its fleet until at least May, suspended or laid off staff and slashed pay for those who remain. As late as two weeks ago, the government announced it would not allow the carrier to go under. That announcement followed the abrupt resignations of both the airline President and Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport director on the same day.

The national airline has been a financial basket-case for over a decade and continues to be propped up by the Thai government who bails them out each year. But the AoT says they have other priorities and won’t be buying into Thai Airways.

Passenger numbers across the 6 AoT-run international airports are expected to fall by more than 50 million baht this year, and AoT president Nitinai Sirismatthakarn said yesterday “…we believe our revenue will drop by at least 30-40%.”

Since the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand banned all international arrivals in Thailand at the start of April, the number of foreign travellers has dropped to a mere dribble of 300-400 passengers a day. The ban deals a cripping blow to the AoT, since international travellers account for 60% of all traffic through its airports. Considering each passenger pays airport fees of up to 700 baht each time they travel from an AoT airport, their absence has had a huge impact on the company’s bottomline.

“In light of this tough situation, the company has no plans to invest in Thai.”

Instead, Nitinai says the AoT will expand its non-aeronautical business arms and focus more on development projects that aren’t related to passenger services.

“We will ask the AoT board to approve a plan to set up a new subsidiary to oversee these businesses.”

Retailers at AoT-run airports have also been severely affected by the closures and flight bans. Many shops have temporarily closed, unable to cover operating costs before flights resume.

To help them stay afloat, the AoT board will offer 50% discounts on rent to shops that stay open, while shops that had to close will be exempted from paying rent.

The AoT also plans to help struggling airlines by reducing parking and runway fees by half.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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