Thai Vietjet halts Phuket-Chiang Rai flights

Photo courtesy of AviationSource News

Thai Vietjet has abruptly cancelled its direct flights between Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand, and Phuket, a favourite destination on the Andaman Sea coast.

The budget airline remained tight-lipped about the sudden suspension. However, the timetable for May 1 to 31, filed with Mae Fah Luang Chiang Rai International Airport and posted on its Facebook page, indicates that the final flight on this route was on May 12.

Flight tracking service FlightAware confirmed that Flight VJ400 landed on time at Chiang Rai airport at 10.25am on May 12 and was the last recorded flight on this route. The airline launched the direct service in November 2023, operating a 180-seat Airbus A320. It flew four times a week: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with an average roundtrip fare of US$140.

Flight VJ400’s schedule saw it depart Phuket at 8.37am and land in Chiang Rai at 10.25am. The return flight left Chiang Rai at 10.55am, arriving in Phuket at 1.05pm.

Chiang Rai Airport lost its active international status during the Covid-19 pandemic when all international flights ceased. Pre-pandemic, the airport was served by a few Chinese airlines, including scheduled charters to Kunming and Hong Kong. However, efforts to attract new international flights have struggled. A single-season route to Singapore with Thai AirAsia in 2019 failed to establish a lasting presence.

Currently, Chiang Rai Airport remains international in name only, needing significant investment and promotional support to rebuild its status. Additionally, persistent smog issues have made the region less appealing to airlines, further complicating efforts to attract and sustain flights.

Thai Vietjet’s direct Phuket-Chiang Rai service was also hampered by competition from cheaper routes via Chiang Mai. Travellers often opted to fly to Chiang Mai and take a bus to Chiang Rai, saving significant amounts on airfares. For families, the savings were particularly compelling.

With this latest suspension, Chiang Rai Airport now focuses solely on Bangkok routes, served by five airlines: Vietjet, Thai Lion, Thai Airways International, Nok Air, and AirAsia, reported TTR Weekly.

Despite competitive fares, Chiang Rai residents face limited domestic travel options compared to those flying from Chiang Mai, where more destinations and cheaper fares are available.

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Top is a multifaceted news writer with a keen interest in real estate and travel. Top currently covers local Thai news at Thaiger. As a travel buff, Top blogs about his travels- around the world and Thailand- during his free time.

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