June 09--The political situation in Thailand has had a crippling affect on charter airlines.
The number of charter flights from Japan to Bangkok have fallen by half since last October, a senior aviation official said.
Woradej Harnprasert, director-general of the Civil Aviation Department, said normal flights have dropped by 5% since last month, with various factors including the low season to blame.
The number of charter flights in particular has dropped significantly, with tourist arrivals falling by 10-15%.
Mr Woradej attributed the sharp drop in charter flights to the political turmoil, which since October has included protracted protests, the invocation of martial law and a military coup.
Mr Woradej said Jet Asia Airways, which operates direct flights to China and Japan, has been affected by the dwindling number of tourists.
The airline operator has sought permission to adapt its services by using two out of its four aircraft to operate as charter flights on other routes.
The airline has not yet scheduled a date to bring back the two aircraft for operation in Thailand, he said.
"Thailand has been affected by falling numbers of Japanese tourists, but the country has not been hit by falling numbers from its main markets, such as China and Russia," he said.
The number of charter flights to and from these countries remains high as usual.
During the past eight months of this fiscal year, from October last year to May, 31 operators of both new and old charter flights sought permission to operate services, mostly on the Thailand-China route, he said.
The department initially planned to stage an auction to select private operators to offer services at its 28 airports.
So far, Airports of Thailand, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways International have shown interest in operating at the airports, Mr Woradej said.
Most are eyeing profitable airports such as Krabi, Surat Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani and Khon Kaen.
Each airport has more than one million passengers a year.
Bidding is expected to take place next year, he said.
Copyright 2014 - Bangkok Post, Thailand