More than 9,700 flights cancelled in past three months

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said on Wednesday that 9,797 flights have been cancelled between January and March, contributing to a loss of around 3 million expected passengers.

CAAT’s director general, Chula Sukmanop, said that during the last week of March, airlines will prepare their summer flight schedules for April to October – considered to be low season, while continuing to be impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus. 

But there is hope that demand will return with the advent of summer in Europe, which could reduce the propagation of the virus within the region. There is also talk of vaccines. 

“We will continue to monitor how much the outbreak will affect flights and passengers during the summer,” he said. “The positive factors are that summer is also coming in Europe and there is research on vaccines, which will help improve the situation in the future.” 

So far, state-carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) have temporarily cancelled their international flights within the Asia-Pacific between March 25 and May 31, while all flights to and from Europe have also been cancelled between April 1 and May 31. Its low-cost subsidiary, Thai Smile, have also cancelled all of their international flights until further notice.

THAI reported last week that they carried around 1.19 million passengers in February, a 23 per cent drop when comparing year-on-year. They have already asked employees to take unpaid leave until June 30. Its executives have reduced their salaries by 15-25 per cent between March and August, while wages for the board of directors have been cut by half. They expect these measures to cut their total expenditures by 30 per cent.

Thai Lion Air have temporarily stopped all flights, both domestic and international, from March 25 until May 1. Thai Air Asia also suspended all of their international flights between March 22 and April 25. 

All Asian airlines are suffering from the outbreak. THAI’s load factor dropped to 70.8 per cent in February. A level of 70 per cent is considered by experts to be the lowest level for any route in order to maintain profit. For the whole of Asia, the load factor dropped from 78 per cent in February 2019, down to 58.2 per cent year-on-year. 

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