The president of the Airlines Association of Thailand says further layoffs in the sector are inevitable, due to the slow return of international tourism. In a Bangkok Post report, Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth says the sluggish revival of foreign tourism, now not expected until the last quarter of the year, means all carriers continue to face financial hardship. And while there was a surge in the domestic market during the last quarter of 2020, the return of the virus in late December brought demand to a grinding halt.
“We suffered a tremendous domestic impact during the second wave, and it will take months to climb back to its peak again. While re-opening for international markets will likely occur with few countries that have bilateral agreements with Thailand first, as health safety is a big issue for local communities.”
Significant layoffs have already happened over the course of the pandemic, with staff numbers at 7 carriers under the AAT umbrella now standing at 16,000, down from between 25,000 and 30,000, prior to Covid-19. Bangkok Airways has cut 20% of its workforce and only has 30% of its fleet in operation. Puttipong, who is also the airline’s president, says it transported just 300 passengers a day during the month of January. Peak passenger numbers prior to the pandemic were around the 5,000 mark. Covid-19 has also led to the demise of low-cost carrier Nok Scoot, which went out of business in June 2020.
Puttipong predicts that Thailand’s aviation sector could take 4 years to get back to anything like the 40 million foreign arrivals of 2019. He says all carriers will need to look at cost-saving initiatives as the only means of long-term survival. Thai Air Asia is one of 7 airline members of the AAT calling for a 14 billion baht soft loan. The carrier has been pushing the government to re-open, warning that Thailand risks losing its status as an international hub.
The Bangkok Post reports that the AAT plans to submit 3 requests to state agencies this week. They are calling for the vaccination programme to be extended to airline workers as a matter of priority, for the rapid introduction of a vaccine passport policy, and for the Transport Ministry to prepare the necessary regulations for international flights.
Puttipong has welcomed the recent decision to reduce quarantine for vaccinated arrivals, pointing out that the 14-day quarantine was the most significant hurdle preventing the return of foreign tourists.
“It’s quite impossible for tourists and business travellers to take 14-day quarantines before and after trips. They might have money to spend, but they don’t have the luxury of time to be kept in isolation for almost a month.”
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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