Thai Air Asia says new Covid outbreak has destroyed business
The executive chairman of Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder in Thai Air Asia, says the Covid-19 resurgence has destroyed the low-cost carrier. Tassapon Bijleveld says that even without a national lockdown, bookings have plummeted.
“Travel sentiment has plunged lower than last year. This is different this time because people are voluntarily skipping their travel plans even without a nationwide lockdown order from the government.”
According to a Bangkok Post report, Tassapon does not expect things to improve next month. Despite the Thai government introducing extra holidays over the Chinese New Year period, Tassapon predicts that the new wave of Covid-19 will prevent most domestic tourists from travelling.
“This could be the quietest Chinese New Year we’ve ever had.”
This month, Thai Air Asia bookings have dropped by over 50%, with the carrier forced to merge and cancel many flights. Some aircraft carried only 20 – 30 passengers, a significant drop on numbers just 2 months ago. Back then, it seemed Thailand had dodged the Covid bullet, with no cases of community transmission in several months. Even though restrictions were still in place on international arrivals, the domestic market was picking up somewhat.
“We were just rebounding from the first lockdown last year. Despite hardly any profits, at least we could have had a consistent revenue stream from the domestic market. But this outburst of new cases destroyed us.”
The airline industry in Thailand has been calling for a financial safety net in the form of soft loans, with 8 carriers teaming up to submit a financial aid proposal to the government last year. Tassapon says the airlines provided all the necessary information to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, as well as to 3 ministers from the Finance Ministry, and to the relevant banks. To date, they’ve had no response.
He says Thai carriers are fighting for survival and if the market doesn’t pick up next month, some may go out of business.