THAI AIRASIA X, Thailand’s first low-fare, long-haul airline, is offering broader travel opportunities to the Middle East with the launch of two new routes.
The carrier will fly direct from Bangkok to Tehran three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) from June 22, and from Bangkok to Muscat – also three times weekly (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) from June 28.
Both routes are being introduced with a special promotional fare starting at Bt2,990 for economy-class seats and Bt9,990 for premium flat-bed business-class seats.
Thai AirAsia X expects to serve 1.1 million passengers in total this year, with an 80-per-cent loading factor.
It also predicts 80-per-cent growth in revenue, from Bt5.4 billion posted last year, and 2016 is expected to be the first year the airline has made a profit. Nadda Buranasiri, chief executive officer of Thai AirAsia X, said the new Middle East routes represented an important milestone for the airline, making it the first Thai low-fare carrier to fly to the region.
The additions offer great convenience by directly connecting Don Mueang International Airport to the Iranian and Omani capitals, with three flights a week for each destination, he said.
The airline is confident that the two cities, with their great travel and investment potential, will prove popular among Thai travellers, he added.
The new destinations also fit in with the strategies of the government and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which call for increased penetration of new markets, especially smaller ones.
The airline will use its low fares to expand its customer base and has plans for even further market expansion, the CEO said.
Nadda also views the new Thai AirAsia X routes as an opportunity to attract Middle Eastern travellers to Thailand via Iran and Oman, making the two countries gateways to Bangkok.
“Thailand has been recognised by people in Oman and Tehran as a hub for leisure and medical tourism. They are big spenders with tremendous growth. We expect a [passenger] ratio of 80 per cent from foreign travellers and 20 per cent from Thais,” he explained. The number of inbound travellers from Iran is anticipated at about 100,000 per year, with 130,000 visitors travelling from Oman yearly.
Nadda said Thailand was already a popular destination for Iranians and Omanis, especially in terms of tourism, medicine and healthcare – segments in which visitors from those markets spend an average of Bt6,500 per day/person while in the Kingdom.
“Iran as a travel destination offers a unique civilisation that Thai tourists will be thrilled to explore. Under its ‘Ancient Elegant’ concept, the country presents artefacts and architecture of great value. “Oman, meanwhile, is a place for adventure and is full of hip and chic experiences, making it perfect for Thai people who have yet to go on a desert journey. We are sure tourist numbers from Thailand to both Iran and Oman will grow satisfyingly,” the chief executive said.
Tehran and Muscat will be Thai AirAsia X’s fifth and sixth destinations respectively, after Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka and Shanghai.
Via cooperation with Thai AirAsia, passengers can use the budget carrier’s Fly Thru service to reach both cities from Phuket, Krabi, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Khon Kaen and Surat Thani via Don Mueang after a single check-in, and with baggage checked through to the final destination.
Travellers from Iran and Oman meanwhile, can use Fly Thru to reach across Thailand and to destinations that include Singapore, Yangon, Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh City, Chongqing, Macau and Tokyo.
Thai AirAsia X will operate its flights to Tehran and Muscat with Airbus A330-300s, offering 12 premium flat-bed business-class seats and 365 economy-class seats on each aircraft.