As Thailand battles a deadly COVID-19 wave, airlines are slowing or suspending their operations. Thai AirAsia has announced that it will temporarily suspend domestic operations from Monday, 12th July, to 31st July. Let’s find out more.
One of AirAsia’s biggest subsidiaries, Thai AirAsia, is going into a 20-day ‘hibernation.’ The decision comes as COVID-19 cases in the country hit a record high of over 9,000 cases daily and deaths reach over 90 on Saturday. This means the government has been pushing hard to contain infections and prevent the movement of travelers across the country.
Responding to this and quickly falling passenger traffic, Thai AirAsia is suspending all domestic operations from 12th July to 31st July. In a statement, a spokesperson said,
“AirAsia always places the safety and wellbeing of its guests and employees as its top priority. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will be prepared to reinstate our scheduled flight services again as soon as possible.”
The situation is further complicated by the center of the outbreak being Bangkok, the carrier’s home base. This means scheduled flights have fallen quickly as strict restrictions in the capital are implemented to slow this deadly wave of COVID.
According to RadarBox.com, Thai AirAsia only operated around 15 domestic flights on Friday and Saturday, most from Bangkok. This is only a fraction of the usual levels, which would see hundreds of domestic flights ferrying passengers across the country. However, with international tourists nascent and domestic ones under lockdown, the airline has few passengers.
Before the ban goes into effect on Monday, Thai AirAsia is laying on extra domestic flights this weekend. On Sunday, the low-cost carrier will fly nearly 40 domestic flights to get more people home or to Phuket under the newly-minted Sandbox initiative. Starting tomorrow, only a handful of charter or cargo flights will be flying domestically.
On the international front, Thai AirAsia is seeing little traffic too. Tight travel restrictions in Asia mean there are little to no destinations open to tourists currently. The only destination Thai AirAsia is flying to seems to be Malè, one of the few South Asian countries open to travelers with few restrictions, and Yangon. However, cargo flights will continue operating with no changes.
The graph above shows the fall in Thai AirAsia’s aircraft utilization. The second wave means traffic in May and June has fallen to less than 15% of those seen in April, when cases were low. With this wave looking particularly formidable, it seems a recovery to winter 2020 levels seems far away.
In a parallel situation, the city of Phuket is wide-open to international travelers. Under the Phuket Sandbox, fully vaccinated passengers from scores of countries can enter the island with no quarantine. The first tourists entered on July 1st, and hundreds more have been coming since. For now, it seems only this once city seems to be the part of Thailand not struggling with COVID-19.
What do you think about Thai AirAsia’s decision to suspend flights? Let us know in the comments.