ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Nok Air to resume international routes
The budget airline plans to lease four B737-400 jets and four ATR 72 turboprops in the short term, with six larger and more capable B737-800 aircraft to come online later.
The carrier's largest fleet expansion since its founding in 2004 is part of an effort to consolidate its domestic market presence and to relaunch regional flights, which were halted three years ago.
Nok Air now operates six B737-400s and two ATR 72s. The jets are used close to maximum capacity, at 90 percent.
Chief executive Patee Sarasin said the airline would continue to grow "steadily and cautiously" over the next few years, primarily by focusing on the domestic market.
The earliest Nok Air will resume international services is 2012 with destinations within a three-hour flight from Bangkok.
"We are not going to expand aggressively like AirAsia. Our mission is to set a strong foothold within in Thailand, which still offers considerable business opportunities," he said.
Nok Air will continue to be mainly a domestic airline, with Thais making up 80 percent of its passengers.
It has reached agreement to lease two B737-400s, one from Dublin-based AWAS and the other from GE Capital Aviation Services, the commercial aircraft financing and leasing business of GE. The airline is in talks to lease the two other B737-400s from other companies.
The four B737-400s are expected to start service for Nok Air between this month and February next year. By about March, Nok Air will have four additional ATR 72s operational.
Six 737-800s are expected to enter Nok Air's service toward the end of next year to form part of its upgrade to more advanced jets. They will replace some of its older 737-400s, including those being leased from Thai Airways International (THAI).
By 2012, Nok Air will operate 12 jets and six ATRs, according to Mr Patee.
Over the next two years, Nok Air targets growth by increasing flight frequency and capacity on domestic trunk routes, such as those to Hat Yai, and by flying to smaller cities.
Nok Air will not necessarily take over secondary routes from THAI. "We have taken enough routes from them and would rather now develop our own," Mr Patee said.
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