Thailand’s aviation sector set for soaring recovery

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Thailand’s skies are set for a dramatic rebound as aviation bodies predict a swift recovery in passenger numbers by next year.

In a statement to the press, Yongyut Lujintanon, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) area manager for Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, highlighted the intricate web of factors influencing the country’s aviation resurgence. Despite the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s ambitious goal of nearly 40 million arrivals this year, challenges persist.

Confirming the surge in demand, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) reported an influx of slot requests. However, Yongyut underscored the persistent threats, ranging from geopolitical tensions to escalating fuel costs, which have skyrocketed by three to five times compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Thailand, once a regional aviation powerhouse, trailed behind Southeast Asian counterparts like the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam in traffic recovery in 2023. Only Vietnam managed to surpass 2019’s traffic figures, underlining the uphill battle for Thailand.

Although the Asia-Pacific region witnessed a 93% recovery in revenue passenger kilometres by January this year, it still lags behind the global average, which soared to pre-pandemic levels. International passengers are expected to reach 2019 levels by next year, contingent upon market dynamics, particularly China’s reopening pace.

Sarun Benjanirat, CAAT’s Deputy Director-General, painted a cautiously optimistic picture, projecting a potential recovery to 165 million passengers by the year’s end. However, the road to full restoration, mirroring IATA’s forecast by 2025, hinges on critical factors like fleet expansion and market resumption, particularly in China.

The unveiling of the Air-mazing Thailand project witnessed a flurry of activity, with airlines eyeing provincial airports like Udon Thani and Surat Thani, reported Bangkok Post.

These developments signal a potential shift in Thailand’s aviation landscape, with Surat Thani emerging as a formidable alternative to alleviate pressure from congested hubs like Samui Airport.

In related news, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin announced last Monday, April 8 that a feasibility study for the expansion of Samui Airport is currently being conducted. The proposed expansion aims to accommodate larger aircraft and an increasing number of visitors.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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