British Airways to resume Bangkok flights from late October. Gatwick to Suvarnabhumi Airport thrice weekly. A boost for Thai aviation hub plans. Flyers expect to see competitive fares. UK tourists are vital for Thailand’s tourism recovery. BA’s strategic shift underscores a renewed commitment to Southeast Asia.

British Airways revealed on Monday that it is resuming direct flights from London to Bangkok. The news comes following a near four-year suspension of a once-daily service before the pandemic. The decision is a boost to PM Srettha Thavisin who announced a plan last week to upgrade Thailand as an aviation hub. It will also mean more competitive fares for badly needed UK tourists to Thailand. It comes as the country’s tourism bosses emphasise the need for higher spending, long-stay arrivals. However, the announcement, this week, was for a reduced and more streamlined service than previously. There will be three weekly flights from the British capital to Suvarnabhumi Airport. At the same time, the flights will take off from Gatwick Airport in London rather than Heathrow.

British Airways Chief Executive Sean Doyle made the announcement on Monday. The move will expand BA’s flight network in Southeast Asia and is part of a new emphasis on premium leisure travel by the airline industry behemoth. The move is a welcome boost to Thailand’s aviation sector and its foreign tourism industry at this time.

After a prolonged absence due to the Covid-19 pandemic, British Airways (BA) is making a triumphant return to Southeast Asia. The leading world airline is reinstating routes to two major capital cities, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

These announcements mark a significant step in the airline’s post-pandemic recovery efforts and signify a strategic shift in its commercial approach to the region.

In addition, it will also be seen as a boost to Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s plans to develop Bangkok as a regional aviation hub. 

The extended absence of British Airways flights to Thailand after it reopened to the world in 2022 had been seen as a vote of no confidence in the kingdom

The prolonged delay by British Airways in reinstating its London to Bangkok route was worrying. Certainly, it had been seen as a vote of no confidence in Thailand.

Thailand faces an uphill struggle to become the aviation hub it once was before the pandemic era

The new service will start in late October with the winter 2024-25 schedules. British Airways will operate three weekly flights from London Gatwick to Bangkok.

This signals a renewed commitment to serving the Thai capital. However, it is a different flight service to Bangkok than before the pandemic.

For instance, this frequency represents a reduction compared to the daily service previously offered from Heathrow. Notably, there is a shift in operations to Gatwick reflecting BA’s new business strategy for Thailand.

In short, the carrier is capitalising on lower operating costs while maintaining competitive fares in a leisure-heavy traffic market.

Competition for Thai Airways which presently offers two flights daily from London’s Heathrow Airport. Good for UK travellers, it should mean cheaper fares

The move will see the airline compete with Thai Airways. The Thai national carrier is offering quite competitive fares on its twice-daily flight from London’s Heathrow Airport. The Thai airline uses Airbus A380 planes on the route, a popular choice with travellers.

Passenger complaint turbulence as Thai Airways appears to plot sky-high Dreamliner expansion
Thai Airways rakes in cash, may exit rehabilitation plan in 2024 with its SET shares relisted in 2025

In contrast to arrangements for its flights to Bangkok, BA’s service to Kuala Lumpur will fly daily from London Heathrow.

In brief, this will begin in November, utilising Boeing 787 aircraft. This move underscores the airline’s dedication to expanding its network in Asia post-pandemic. 

The new services will provide passengers with a range of cabin options tailored to their preferences.

New approach to doing business from British Airways as it aims to provide more choice in destinations, competitive fares while upholding quality standards

Sean Doyle is chairman and chief executive of British Airways. Formerly, he was chief executive officer of the Irish airline Aer Lingus. Doyle is pioneering a business strategy aimed at premium leisure passengers.

The new Gatwick to Bangkok service fits this niche perfectly. However, it will have trimmed costs weighted against potentially higher volume.

On Monday, he emphasised the airline’s commitment to modernisation and enhancing its customer experience.

He outlined plans for new aircraft, upgraded cabins, improved operational performance, and initiatives to reduce environmental impact.

At length, it includes the introduction of messaging services on in-flight wifi. In addition, the airline has installed extra-large overhead luggage bins on short-haul planes.

The decision to reinstate flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur comes amid shifting market dynamics and competitive pressures.

Sean Moulton, an aviation schedule analyst, noted that BA’s move signifies a strategic shift. In brief, it is expanding from its core markets connecting Europe and India with the US, Canada and Australia.

British Airways already faces stiff competition in fares from carriers at Heathrow and those flying out of Dubai which is a key international aviation hub

At this time, the airline aims to tap into underserved connections to Southeast Asia. Significantly, this is seen as bowing to demand from UK travellers.

Thailand has historically been a popular destination for British tourists. 

The kingdom is popular with UK visitors because of its diverse attractions. These range from its vibrant city nightlife to its idyllic beaches.

However, BA faces stiff competition. This is from other carriers operating nonstop routes from Heathrow to Bangkok, such as Thai Airways and EVA Air.

This all spells good news for travellers seeking competitive airfares.

Furthermore, Middle Eastern carriers like Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways pose a formidable challenge. In the meantime, these airlines offer multiple daily flights from their hubs to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur at competitive fares. 

Despite these challenges, British Airways remains optimistic about the prospects for its revived routes.

The airline’s management cites the growing popularity of premium leisure travel and ongoing efforts by destination countries to promote meaningful tourism experiences.

Airline industry behemoth is opening up its flight network and extending its connectivity. It leaves it poised for expansion as foreign tourism rebounds

In summary, British Airways’ reinstatement of routes to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur represents a significant milestone in the airline’s recovery from the pandemic. 

The decision reflects a strategic shift in its commercial approach. The UK flag carrier is making clear its commitment to serving key markets in Asia. 

As travel demand gradually rebounds, BA is poised to capitalise on emerging opportunities.

Its extended network now provides passengers with enhanced connectivity and travel experiences in Southeast Asia. Unquestionably, Bangkok had to be in this equation.

In Thailand, the decision to reinstate the London to Bangkok service has been long awaited. It comes as the kingdom’s foreign tourism industry is still only recovering. The new flights will undoubtedly see more competitive fares and consequently bring more UK holiday makers.

UK tourists will be particularly welcome in Thailand in 2024. 2023 survey shows they tend to spend more on bars and restaurants, a sector that has suffered

In 2024, Thai tourist chiefs are especially seeking more long-haul tourists who traditionally spend more. A Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) survey published this week highlights this.

It shows tourist spending is just beginning to creep above 2019 levels. This latest figure is ฿50,900 per trip. At the same time, tourists from Europe including the UK spend ฿59,345.

UK visitors, however, are more likely to support the kingdom’s hotels, bars and restaurants. In short, they will help to counter lower spending habits among Thailand’s new Asian tourists from short-haul markets.

Teerasil Tapen is the deputy governor for digital Research and Development at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). He explained the findings of the agency’s survey of 30,054 tourists, conducted in 2023.

There was a pronounced fall in money spent on food and beverages by tourists in 2023 compared to 2019. It fell from ฿5,875 to ฿4,094.

‘We noticed people craved street food more than before as they sought local travel experiences, while the popularity of fine dining dropped from 47.7% in 2019 to 43.2% last year,’ he explained. ‘The preference for street food helped spur tourism expenditure to more local operators.’ 

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Thailand faces an uphill struggle to become the aviation hub it once was before the pandemic era

New self-service immigration exits twice as fast and allow for tighter incoming security checks at airport

Thailand wants to see far more US and Canadian tourists as long-haul visitors spend twice as much

Passenger complaint turbulence as Thai Airways appears to plot sky-high Dreamliner expansion

Raking in cash, Thai Airways may exit rehabilitation plan in 2024 with its SET shares relisted in 2025

Passengers to finally get refunds from high-flying Thai Airways still facing financial turbulence

Flying high at Thai Airways as numbers skyrocket as it flies tourists into the kingdom from Europe

British Airways snubs Bangkok in favour of elite travellers to Singapore as Thai Airways load levels rise

฿25 billion funding request from state coffers for Thai Airways rebuffed by a senior Finance Ministry official

Flag carrier, Thai Airways still needs borrowed time and money as it submits survival plan to the bankruptcy court

Thai Airways seeking business rehabilitation plan that has the unanimous support of it’s creditors

Thai Airways seeks a second and last extension to file its survival plan with the Bankruptcy Court on March 3rd