July 29--Thai AirAsia (TAA) has scaled down its expansion this year, cutting targets for fleet growth and passenger volume to reflect sluggish demand triggered by the political unrest in much of the first half.
The country's largest low-cost carrier will take delivery of five Airbus 320 jets instead of eight planned earlier and trim its passenger target to 12.6 million from 13.3 million.
Commercial director Santisuk Klongchaiya yesterday said the revised plan was consistent with the slowdown in travel demand, particularly from abroad, that was buffeted by pre-coup uncertainty.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand said first-half foreign arrivals dropped by 9.91% year-on-year to 11.8 million as 57 countries and territories issued travel advisories against visiting here.
TAA did not reveal the number of passengers it carried in the first half but said it would do so on Aug 8, when its parent firm, SET-listed Asia Aviation Plc, announces its second-quarter financial results.
It has received four A320s this year and will shortly get another to bring its fleet, all A320s with 180 seats, to 40.
However, Mr Santisuk said Thailand this month began to see signs of recovery in traffic demand.
"Thailand's tourism is very resilient and has traditionally been able to regain its growth pace in one or two months," he said.
TAA should recoup some growth momentum in the fourth quarter to allow it to record an average load of factor of 82%, similar to last year.
The airline has continued to expand its network with yesterday's announcement of its latest route ? Bangkok-Sakon Nakhon.
It will launch a service to its fifth northeastern destination on Oct 1 with two flights a day.
Two other northeastern destinations, Roi Et and Buri Ram, are also on TAA's radar screen, while it intends to add a fourth daily flight to Khon Kaen next month.
Mr Santisuk said TAA still has two routes ? one to a domestic city and the other bound for China ? waiting to be opened by year-end.
Copyright 2014 - Bangkok Post, Thailand