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Phuket Business: Smile – you’re on THAI

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Business: Smile – you’re on THAI | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Last week Prasert Tanhansa, manager of the THAI Airlines (TA) district sales office in Phuket, announced new Phuket routes to be serviced, starting next month, by the national carrier’s new airline, THAI Smile (TS). Here, the Phuket Gazette’s Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai speaks exclusively with Mr Prasert about market positioning, strategies and more.

PHUKET GAZETTE: TS has been called by some as an Ultra Low Cost Carrier (ULCC) compared to Nok Air, which is an LCC. Is this classification correct?

PRASERT TANHANSA: We do not classify TS as an Ultra Low Cost Carrier or Low Cost Carrier. We position ourselves as ‘Light Premium’, which is in between premium and low cost.

The current situation of our market has not been very good. The parent airline, TA used to be the leader in the aviation business, but now we share the market with many other low cost airlines. We used to enjoy 70% market share, but now it is down to 40%.

Even though we are hurting, we can’t reduce our standards. TA has always offered premium standard service and we intend to keep it that way. However, if we don’t do anything to get the market share back, we will lose all of our business to LCCs.

Therefore, we’ve launched TS, which will contain some of the same premium services as TA, but the pricing, as well as some products and services, such as meals and on-board entertainment, will be reduced. For example, TA serves full meals on all its flights, but TS flights will have snack packs or light meals instead. If the passengers want to eat more food, they can choose to buy more.

What is TA’s current and anticipated future stake in Nok Air (NA), and what is the difference between TS and NA?

TS is another product under the brand name of TA, while TA holds a 49% share of NA, so we do not directly operate NA. Even though NA classify themselves as an LCC, they position themselves as a low-fare, high-value budget airline.

Originally, TA planned for TS to service routes covering different destinations from those of TA, but now that NA services those destinations – small towns – already, TS will will service the exact same routes for main destination of TA.

The only difference between TA and TS will be price and services. The service offerings of TS and NA are quite similar. The differences are the brand names and their respective mileage programs. TS passengers can collect mileage under the Royal Orchid Plus program, just like TA passengers.

NA uses an entirely different mileage program, however. TS passengers can use their mileage to fly with TA. TS passengers can also choose their seats, check in up to 20 kilograms of luggage for Smile Class (Economy class) and 30 kg for Smile PLUS Class (Business class) – at no extra charge.

Can you confirm the initial and future routes of TS?

We ordered 11 brand-new, 168-seat Airbus A320-200 aircraft. So far, four of them have already arrived. The first route we launched, as of July 7 this year, was Bangkok to Macau.

Routes from Bangkok to the South will include Surat Thani, Krabi, and Phuket. Routes planned from Phuket include Bangkok and Chiang Mai. In the near future, we also plan to launch a Phuket-Singapore service. This should launch by January 2013. Another potential route with high demand that we may launch is Phuket-Udon Thani. We cannot confirm this route yet as it is now in the process of review.

What is your expectation for the first year of the operation?

We are not that concerned about most of our routes, with the exception of the Phuket-Chiang Mai leg. Compared with other routes, this route can be very challenging.

Phuket seems to be the last destination Thailand’s international tourists visit before returning home. There are not that many tourists who want to travel from Phuket to Chiang Mai before they head back home.

Part of it is because Chiang Mai doesn’t have that many outbound international flights. TA has always offered flights from Chiang Mai to Phuket because many tourists travel this route. We don’t expect much from the Phuket-Chiang Mai leg in the first year. We will keep the price down to attract passengers initially. Once this route becomes more popular, we may reconsider the price.

We have publicized this new route to all of our sales representatives as well as tour operators. I asked them to include the tour program that starts from Phuket to Chiang Mai and some other places so that we can promote this route.

Our primary target for the Phuket to Chiang Mai route is foreigners, while Thais are our secondary target. There might be some Thais who use this route to visit their home town. We expect the occupancy rate for this route to be about 60% in the first year. Compared with other airlines that already service this route, our price is still a bit higher.

I have just proposed a promotional price that is attractive enough for passengers to decide to fly with us. We are now waiting for the approval of the special promotion price. Even though our price may not match the competitor’s price, our service is much better. I think that is our strong selling point.

How do you view competition?

I believe we can compete with other low cost airlines in the market. We have the advantage of being the premium airline. Even though TS offers less than TA, we are still offering ‘Light Premium’ service. Unlike any other LCC in the market, our passengers can use the mileage program from Royal Orchid Plus of Thai Airways.

They are also allowed to check in luggage and select seats at no extra fee. Business class passengers of TS can also use the business class lounge of TA. The passengers of TS can still enjoy the lighter premium service as offered on TA’s flights, for example, snack packs or light meals.

On-board entertainment, such as magazines, will not be provided on TS flights. Most of the passengers of our flights aren’t too concerned about inflight meals or entertainment on such short trips though.

How would you describe Thai Smile?

We have three keywords that can define our brand:

1) Trendy: We are a trendy airline with chic interior design in our aircraft. We use orange as the main color scheme for TS, which reflects liveliness. Our flight attendants and crew are younger, look refreshingly young and have a great service mind.

2) Friendly: Our staff are very friendly and they will make all of the passengers feel warm and welcome with a great smile living up to the name of the airline.

3) Worthy: The price of a TS flight is worth the money passengers spend. Passengers can enjoy light premium service at an affordable price.

Who are your targets?

We want to attract the younger generation who love to travel in style, while keeping the price within their reach. Our main target is different from TA. We set our target for the young generation who love to travel, such as the backpacker group and fresh graduates who just start to earn their income and love to travel.

Tthe main target group of TA is business travelers. I believe that TS will take a year before becoming well known and getting more market share from other LCCs. It should not take so long since TS is operated under TA, [so travellers will] consider our reputation for a high standard. We have a reliable brand name that everyone trusts.

— Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thailand

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military

Maya Taylor

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Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook

Facebook has confirmed the removal of 185 accounts run by the Thai military and allegedly involved in information-influencing. The social media giant says the accounts were deleted for engaging in what it calls, “coordinated inauthentic behaviour”. In total, 77 accounts, 72 pages, and 18 groups have been removed from the platform, in addition to 18 Instagram accounts. It’s the first time Facebook has taken such action against accounts linked to the Thai government.

The accounts were associated with the Thai military and were targeting people in the southern provinces, Facebook said its regular report on coordinated inauthentic behavior. The south of the country has been the scene of decades-long conflict, with insurgent groups in the majority-Muslim, Malay-speaking region calling for independence. To date, around 7,000 people have died in the ongoing struggle.

Facebook says the deleted accounts were most active last year and used both fake and real accounts to manage pages and groups, both openly military pages and pages that hid their links to the military. Some of the fake profiles pretended to be people from the southern provinces.

The report mentioned a post by the now-removed account named “comprehending the operation” in Thai. The page posted the logo for Amnesty International Thailand and wrote “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role in society. Normal people are not famous. Any case is not big news. They are not worth the investment of foreigners so they will not do anything to help. This is why we don’t see anything from the NGO.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “The NGO never cares about ordinary citizens because they have no role nor money.”

On another now-removed account, named “truth about my home Pattani” in Thai, a post said “Muslim leader declares southern border is a peace zone. The southern separatists started a movement by spreading the idea that Thailand is under control by different believers so that people would come and fight for their religion. This was declared that the action clearly violates Islam faith.”

Facebook removes “information-influencing” pages linked to Thai military | News by The Thaiger

Image overlay translates to “Southern border is not Jihad zone.”

When contacted by Reuters, the military had no comment on the removal of the Facebook accounts, with a spokesman saying the organisation does not comment outside of official press conferences.

The head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, Nathaniel Gleicher, has confirmed the reasons behind the platform’s decision.

“This is the first time that we’ve attributed one of our takedowns to links to the Thai military. We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.”

He adds that the accounts had spent around US$350 on advertising on both Facebook and Instagram. One or more of the pages had about 700,000 followers and at least one of the groups had 100,000 members. Gleicher says the accounts were removed because of their misleading behaviour and not because of the content being posted. The content included support for the military and the monarchy, with allegations of violence and criticism of insurgent groups in the south.

It’s not the first time accounts linked to the Thai military have been removed by a social media platform. In October, Twitter removed 926 accounts it says had links to the army and posted pro-military and pro-government content. The Thai army has denied any involvement with the accounts in question. In November, Twitter also suspended an account posting pro-monarchy content that was found to have links to the palace and to thousands of other accounts posting similar content.

To read the February 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report, click HERE.

SOURCES: Reuters| Facebook

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Central Thailand

Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers

Maya Taylor

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Airline executive arrested for failure to pay wages of 150 workers | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

An airline executive has been arrested in the central province of Samut Songkhram, after complaints from150 employees that they had not been paid. Chawengsak Noiprasan, who had a court warrant issued against him in October, was taken to Don Muang police station from a property in the Bang Khan Take sub-district. He is a board member of Siam Air Transport.

The airline began operations in October 2014 with services out of Don Mueang to Hong Kong, using 2 Boeing 737-300s. 2 Boeing 737-800s were added to its fleet in late 2015. It expanded by adding Zhengzhou and Guangzhou in China to its network in early 2015. In late 2015, the airline launched flights to Macau and Singapore. In 2017, the airline ceased all operations.

But according to an article in the Bangkok Post, the carrier operates a number of scheduled and charter flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. The Post reports that, as Chawengsak signs the company’s legal paperwork, all legal matters concerning the airline fall to him.

The Metropolitan Police Bureau says the executive has admitted to ignoring a 30 day notice issued by the labour inspector and ordering the payment of wages to 150 workers. It’s understood he is also wanted in relation to 7 other cases.

The authorities sought Chawengsak’s arrest following complaints from employees who say they haven’t received their wages for 2 months. It’s understood the airline had previously deferred salary payments for over 8 months. 150 workers filed an official complaint with Don Mueang police and also approached media outlets, asking them to pressure the airline into paying the money owed.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Business

Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO

The Thaiger

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Governments & old media versus social media – who will win? | VIDEO | The Thaiger

We look at the recent changes made by the Australian and Indian governments to except control over the world’s biggest social media platforms. India has issued strict new rules for Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms just weeks after the Indian government attempted to pressure Twitter to take down social media accounts it deemed, well, anti social. There is now an open battle between the rise of social media platforms and the governments and ‘old’ media that have been able to maintain a certain level of control over the ‘message’ for the last century. Who will win?

The rules require any social media company to create three roles within India… a “compliance officer” who ensures they follow local laws; a “grievance officer” who addresses complaints from Indian social media users; and a “contact person” who can actually be contacted by lawyers and other aggrieved Indian parties… 24/7.

The democratisation of the news model, with social media as its catalyst, will continue to baffle traditional media and governments who used to enjoy a level of control over what stories get told. The battles of Google and Facebook, with the governments of India and Australia will be followed in plenty of other countries as well.

At the root of all discussions will be the difference between what governments THINK social media is all about and the reality about how quickly the media landscape has changed. You’ll get to read about it first, on a social media platform… probably on the screen you’re watching this news story right now.

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