AirAsia boss pushes Bangkok as global aviation hub


Commenting after his meeting with Thai PM Srettha Thavisin, Tony Fernandes, the chief executive officer of Capital A, the parent company of AirAsia, said it was time Bangkok became the global aviation hub of Asean, just like Dubai is the global hub in the Middle East.

Based in Malaysia, AirAsia is operating low-cost airlines in four Asean countries, namely Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The company is planning to launch the newest addition, AirAsia Cambodia, in March.

“We want to make Bangkok the next Dubai in terms of being a global aviation hub, as the Asean region has high potential with a population numbering more than 700 million,” Fernandes said on Wednesday. “However, Thailand’s airports cannot grow overnight. Therefore, we want to see infrastructure for low-cost airlines included in the country’s future airport expansion projects.”

He went on to thank the Thai government for waiving the visa requirement for travellers from selected countries in a bid to boost tourism, which also benefits the airline industry in the region.

Fernandes revealed that after meeting with Srettha, who also doubles as Finance Minister, the AirAsia group would file an official proposal to the Thai government, requesting a 40% reduction on excise tax for jet fuel, which is currently collected at 4.726 baht per litre, and is the highest among the four countries where AirAsia operates.

The Philippines collect excise tax for jet fuels of 2.48 baht per litre, while Malaysia and Indonesia do not collect this tax.

“Reducing fuel tax will also help expand the domestic tourism market by distributing Thai and foreign visitors to other provinces besides Bangkok and Phuket,” he said.

AirAsia will also ask the Thai government to maintain the current rate of the air navigation service fee collected by the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, which will help airline operators manage operational costs.

The airline would also urge the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand to consider increasing traffic rights on Thailand-India routes.

Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Thai AirAsia and Thai AirAsia X, said on Wednesday that AirAsia group is planning to procure 412 new airplanes, about 25% of which or 100-150 airplanes have been earmarked for the Thai operation.

He said Thai AirAsia and Thai AirAsia X airlines aim to serve 20-21 million passengers in 2024, up from 18 million people recorded in 2023. However, this estimation is still lower than the tally in 2019, before the pandemic, at 22 million people.

Tassapon added that Thai AirAsia and Thai AirAsia X would not merge into a single airline immediately after the AirAsia Group announced a business structure adjustment on Monday (January 15), which will see the merger of airline businesses under Capital A with its sister company AirAsia X Bhd (AAX).

“The merger of two airlines in Thailand may have to wait 2-3 years, until after Thai AirAsia X leaves the business rehabilitation plan, which should happen around late 2025,” he said.