Bangkok Airways to revive flights to Mae Hong Son, northern Thailand

Mae Hong Son Airport in northern Thailand became a ghost town after Nok Air scrapped the only remaining commercial route to the airport last month. But much to the delight of local tourism operators, Bangkok Airways is planning to revive flights to the province.

Bangkok Airways is looking to start flying between Bangkok and Mae Hong Son via Lampang thrice weekly, beginning as soon as August 2, 2023, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). The airport services the popular backpacking town of Pai.

Nok Air can no longer fly the Don Mueang – Mae Hong Son route because the airline is bidding farewell to its fleet of Q400 aircraft (86-seat turboprops) and swapping them for Boeing 787-800 jets (189 seaters).

Senior President of the Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce, Chanakhet Boonyakhan, said that a 737-800 jet could land on the runway at Mae Hong Son Airport, which is 30 metres by 2000 metres. After all, Thai Airways used to fly a 747-400 aircraft, another large jet, to Mae Hong Son with no problem.

However, it is not cost-effective to service the route with a 189-seat aircraft. The 80-seat flights are often full, but the demand is not higher than that, said Chanakhet. There should be at least 100 people on the flight to make it cost-effective.

Last month, Chanakhet pointed out that Bangkok Airways’ ATR-72 propeller planes, with around 70 seats, would be suitable to fly to Mae Hong Son. Now, the airline has agreed to revive the abandoned route, expected to boost tourism to the region, serviced by their 70-seaters.

Bangkok Airways is currently applying to fly the route between Mae Hong Son and Lampang. The airline is already permitted to fly between Bangkok and Lampang.

Yesterday, Bangkok Airways engaged in discussions to launch a route between Bangkok and Phrae province in northern Thailand. The proposed route would also be serviced by the airline’s ATR-72s.

Before the pandemic, Bangkok Airways’ Phrae – Don Mueang route proved popular with two flights per day with an average occupancy of 80%.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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