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AirAsia will resume some flights beginning April 29

Jack Burton

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AirAsia will resume some flights beginning April 29 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: TTR Weekly
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With a dozen or more airlines, including national flag carrier Thai Airways suspending flights or completely grounding their fleets due to the Covid-19 crisis, there is a ray of sunshine. AirAsia is set to resume domestic flights, starting with the home base in Malaysia on April 29, followed by Thailand and the Philippines on May 1, India on May 4 and Indonesia on May 7, subject to approval from local authorities.

The resumptions will initially be only for selected domestic routes, but will increase gradually to include international destinations once the situation improves and governments lift borders and travel restrictions.

Flights are already open for booking via the airasia.com website and mobile App. Guests with flight credits due to previous cancellations may use their accounts to redeem these flights. Further details on routes and flight schedule will be announced in the coming weeks, subject to approval from the respective authorities.

“We are very pleased to be able to fly again and to serve our guests starting with domestic routes, and hope to resume full operations as soon as possible. We have undertaken a thorough review of our guest handling procedures both on ground and onboard in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. We have been working closely with the airport authorities to ensure that all relevant precautionary measures are in place to ensure a safe, pleasant and comfortable journey for everyone.”

Guests are still advised to take protective precautionary measures including wearing a mask, social distancing and observing strict personal hygiene. The aircraft, which are fitted with hospital-grade High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, will also be sent for thorough disinfection after each flight.

Guests are advised to keep updated via Travel Advisories issued by AirAsia on airasia.com and social media platforms and to check their flight status at airasia.com/flightstatus for live updates.

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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Crime

Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Fishermen abuse and slavery cases solved “off-the-record” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth

Many cases of alleged abuse and slavery at sea are not being reported to the Thailand government. The Thomson Reuters Foundation did an analysis on the claims of slavery and abuse on Thai fishing boats and found that the majority of complaints are not documented with labour ministry officials who solve issues “off-the-record”.

Many fisherman agree to mediation because they don’t want to waste time if the case goes to court, Suwanee Dolah from Raks Thai Foundation, a non-profit focusing on a variety of humanitarian and supports fishermen, mostly from Cambodia and Myanmar. Employers would rather not have a large number of complaints, Dolah says. One labour ministry official explained to Reuters that they encourage the employer and employee to mediate before submitting a complaint, if the case is minor.

Reuters obtained labour abuse complaints from 289 fishing workers lodged between 2o15 and 2020. Nothing was documented on the outcomes. Some fishermen seek help from charities rather than the government. Since 2015, charities have been helping out around 1,600 fishermen solve problems with their employer involving payment and abuse, according to Reuters.

Although complaints are supposedly getting resolved, a lawyer specialising in human trafficking told Reuters that labour inspectors tend to support the employers rather than the workers. He added that many workers are afraid of taking legal action.

“If the cycle of violations kept in the dark and solved one-on-one goes on without punishment, some say the employers may keep abusing the employees…. it will cause a never-ending cycle of rights violations.”

SOURCE: Reuters

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Low cost carrier Thai AirAsia ponders merger

Jack Burton

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Low cost carrier Thai AirAsia ponders merger | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Tassapon Bijleveld - Travel Daily News Asia

The CEO of Thai AirAsia says it may merge with another low-cost carrier to avoid cutthroat pricing wars once flights resume after the Covid-19 crisis subsides, and has admitted to conversations with other airlines. He says if tourism doesn’t resume by July, TAA will be forced to begin laying off employees, downsizing the company and its fleet to keep its business alive.

Thailand has 7 low-cost carriers which has forced a vicious price-war in the past five years providing cheap flights for people using the carriers in Thailand.

But local low cost carriers have suffered disproportionately over the past few months as the Covid-19 pandemic virtually shut down air travel in Asia and in many countries around the world. The Thai government’s restrictions on international and even domestic air travel have caused TAA serious losses. Some 40% of its revenue previously came from flights passing through Phuket’s airport.

The Thai franchise of Air Asia is losing about 1.2 billion baht per month due to the lockdown. Its 60 aircraft fleet is left stranded at airports according to Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of SET-listed Asia Aviation.

Tassapon, a major shareholder with 40.52% of Asia Aviation, the owner of TAA, told the Bangkok Post he’s already had conversations with other airlines about the possibility of a merger. He couldn’t disclose any details but says there isn’t a concrete plan, and other conditions must be fulfilled to enable a decision.

“A merger is possible if aviation in Thailand resumes with the same old fiery price wars. Furthermore now we have more limited revenue sources.”

Though domestic air services have taken off since May, passenger loads have not been good, as only those required to travel are doing so, and there is virtually no leisure travel.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times | Bangkok Post

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Transport

High speed railway linking Thailand and China takes another step

Jack Burton

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High speed railway linking Thailand and China takes another step | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO

A high speed rail link between Thailand and China is closer to becoming a reality, according to Thai Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob. The signing of “Contract 2.3″ for the Bangkok-Nakhon Ratchasima section is expected in October this year. China has become a major player in the railway industry and, as a result, many countries, including Thailand, are working with China to develop their own high speed rail networks.

Following the meeting of the 28th Thai-Chinese Joint Committee, Chidchob said the 2 sides agreed on the 50.6 billion baht draft contract including the content on signaling and operation systems. The 253 kilometre rail route from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima in the northeast is part of a stage 2 project which will ultimately link Bangkok to NongKhai, bordering Laos.

The first phase covers a 125 billion baht link from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima. The second, expected to cost 200 billion baht,will run 355 kilometres from Nakhon Ratchasima to Nong Khai. For the second project, Thailand is working with China’s State Railway Group.

The projects form part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched by President Xi Jin-ping 6 years ago, according to the president of the All-China Journalists Association.

“This Belt & Road Initiative project will help China integrate with the rest of the world and link the Chinese dream with the global dream.”

The Belt and Road Initiative was developed to bolster economic and social ties with 65 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, covering an estimated population of 4.4 billion people.

“I think it is important. The project will help connect people in the two countries via Laos. It can help promote socio-economic development and prosperity in these two countries and also across the whole Asian region. China has made a lot of investments in Laos. Among them is the China-Laos Railway, running from Kunming to Vientiane.”

Under Contract 2.3, 80% of the payment will be made in US dollars and the remaining 20% in baht.

The signing is scheduled for October or sooner before the 5 year project commences. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha will preside over the signing ceremony at Government House.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | TNA

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