Country’s economy and firms are running out of money and time as one airline, NokScoot, is reported to be on the brink while the Thai Air Asia boss desperately tries to get its aircraft back into the skies. CEO Nadda Buranasiri promised to visit foreign embassies in Bangkok in a personal effort to expedite the process of opening air channels between the kingdom and other ASEAN countries.
As one Thai airline begins to wind down its operations, the boss of Thai Air Asia has vowed to visit foreign embassies in Thailand in an attempt to broker air channel deals to get flights between ASEAN countries back into the air again, another airline, NokScoot, is readying to close its doors. This week, the Thai Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam was told by a Japanese industry leader that thousands of Japanese businessmen were trying, in vain, to get access to the kingdom. The country is, by far, Thailand’s largest foreign direct investor.
As the Thai government appears to tentatively be moving towards opening up the country to flights, airlines flying in and out of Thailand are threatening to pull out of the market or cease operations altogether.
This week, it was reported that Nadda Buranasiri, the boss of Air Asia and Thai Air Asia was rolling up his shirt sleeves and taking on himself the task of trying to broker some sort of agreements, air channels or routes between Thailand and other Asian countries to allow the dynamic airline, which has emerged as a key player in Thailand in recent years, to resume operations with some sort of economic basis.
Thai Air Asia shareholder chairman calls for air links to be reopened to ASEAN countries as a priority
It comes as the Chairman of Asia Aviation (AAV), which is listed on Bangkok’s SET market and is the largest shareholder in Thai Air Asia pleaded with the Thai government to open up the country to ASEAN countries as quickly as possible.
‘We need the government to open up to ASEAN citizens first, as most of the countries in this region have contained the virus and most are easing restrictions within their countries. To prevent its possible spread, Thailand should create a cluster of destinations, catering to specific groups of travellers,’ he said.
Airline boss says he’ll visit the foreign embassies in Bangkok to help broker agreements
Meanwhile, Mr Nadda, the Chief Executive of the Air Asia Group and Thai Air Asia said that he would personally visit the embassies of all the countries concerned in Thailand and begin a dialogue on reopening air channels or air travel with reciprocal standards and procedures at each end to protect against the coronavirus disease. The pandemic has brought the world economy and in particular the air industry to a standstill since April.
Mr Nadda pointed out that there is now rapid testing for the Covid 19 virus which is 98% accurate but warned that the current insistence in Thailand on a 14-day quarantine stay will greatly hamper any prospect of a return of tourism at any time or even general air travel for other purposes.
NokScoot preparing to close down
His comments come as another Thai Airline, NokScoot, sent a circular to staff this week announcing that their jobs are to be terminated.
For now, the company has confirmed that it is cutting back its staffing levels and resources to cope with the Covid 19 disaster.
However, it is feared that the company is preparing to close down completely its operations in Thailand.
In a statement on Wednesday, it said: ‘Despite some early signs of stabilising, demand for air travel is not expected to return to 2019 levels until 2022 or 2023.’
On Wednesday also, Thailand’s other Deputy Prime Minister for Economics, Somkid Jatusripitak, warned of the economic challenge facing the kingdom.
He said that many firms are going to close their doors in July even as attempts are made to open the domestic economy.
Airline flew from Don Mueang on international routes and was a joint venture with Singapore’s Scoot
NokScoot is a joint venture between Thailand’s Nok Airways and the Singapore based airline, Scoot.
The airline had operated medium to long haul flights including international flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport.
Plans are now underway to return three of the airline’s aircraft to Singapore before the end of the month.
It is one of eight airlines that have applied to the Thai government for soft loans to the tune of ฿24 billion to help them survive this crisis.
A source with the airline industry has suggested that NokScoot is preparing to fully cease operations in Thailand with the loss of all jobs.
The company has announced that those who are laid off will be paid statutory redundancy in keeping with Thailand’s labour laws.
Reported shortage of alternative quarantine rooms for Japanese executives trying to get in
On Wednesday also, it was reported that Thailand, de facto, still only has 900 rooms in operation right now and available to foreigners under the alternative quarantine scheme.
If true, this would signify a significant bottleneck to plans to re-open the kingdom to foreign incoming passengers even on controlled terms.
In April, the government had announced it was preparing 3,500 hotel rooms for use in quarantining passengers returning from overseas. This was later suggested to have grown to 6,000 rooms with 9,000 rooms being targeted.
However, on Wednesday, the Thai Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, announced that Japanese businessmen would be the first to be allowed to enter the kingdom.
He was speaking following talks with Atsushi Taketani of the Japan External Trade Organisation who told the deputy PM that there were thousands of senior Japanese business executives trying to gain access to Thailand at this time.
The Japanese trade representative particularly identified the limit of 900 rooms available under the alternative quarantine scheme as an impediment.
Covid 19 centres said only 700 foreign businessmen had registered to enter Thailand this week
On Wednesday also, the Covid 19 Administration centre suggested that there were 700 business people, from around the world, who had registered to enter Thailand but it was also suggested that, exclusively for this group, short term stays without quarantine may be possible.
Deputy Wissanu committed to increasing the number of alternative quarantine rooms available and also told reporters that he had not discussed additional incentives for Japanese investors alluded to by the Thai Prime Minister recently.
Japan is Thailand’s largest inward foreign direct investor by far.
Figures published by international bank Santander show that it represented 38.6% of investment in the kingdom in 2018 followed by Singapore, Hong Kong and the United States.
Investment by Japanese entities exceeded the other three countries combined by nearly 38%.