Thai AirAsia ready to serve Chinese boom
TAA chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld yesterday provided the projections based on the backdrop of the fact that the no-frills carrier was accounting for about half of all the Chinese who arrived in the kingdom by air in the past 15 months.
Last year, the airline carried 1.1 million Chinese to and from Thailand, while the tally for the first quarter of this year amounted to more than 425,000, or over 50% of all Chinese arrivals to Thailand in the period.
TAA's Chinese passengers in the first quarter of this year soared 140% over the same period last year, a result of the airline's focus on Chinese opportunities as well as the hype generated by Lost in Thailand, a low-budget comedy film shot mostly in the kingdom to become China's highest-grossing film with 6 billion baht.
Mr Tassapon underscored the importance of the Chinese market as the airline is moving to consolidate traffic opportunities over its existing routes linking Thailand and China, primarily by beefing up frequencies and planning to add two new destinations in southern China, possibly including Kunming, in the second half of this year.
TAA is to increase its Bangkok-Hong Kong frequencies to three flights per day starting from April 30, doubling its Bangkok-Wuhan service to twice a day from June 3 and Bangkok-Chongqing to two flights daily on July 1.
TAA now connects Thailand to seven Chinese destinations on nine routes.
Mr Tassapon said the proportion of Chinese to TAA's combined passenger mix has grown from 12% last year to 16% in the first quarter and such a percentage is expected to grow to 18% by the end of this year.
The airline is optimistic of meeting its target of 10 million passengers for 2013, an increase from 8.3 million in 2012 and 6.9 million in 2011.
Its overall passenger numbers for the first quarter of 2013 were on target, with a record-breaking figure of about 920,000 in March alone.
Meanwhile, TAA reveals that its recent traveller profiles reflect a younger Chinese demographic with high purchasing power, which will surely play a positive role in stimulating the hotel and tourism industry in Thailand.
The airline's chief executive called on Thai tourism-related industries to make adjustments conducive to handling the Chinese traffic.
For instance, he said there is a need to provide clear signage in Mandarin at popular tourist attractions, while hotels should also be prepared to accommodate this growing segment.
"They need to change their mindset about the Chinese, who dare to spend a lot on sightseeing, shopping and eating, all adding up to good business for them," he said.
For the first quarter of this year, TAA was able to fill 87% of its seats, higher than the 85% targeted earlier.
The airline projects an average seat factor of 82% for the whole of 2013.
Meanwhile, the airline reported 88% growth in the number of passengers from Indochina plus Myanmar _ the other principal region among TAA's focused markets _ in the first quarter.