SUNDAY, April 14, 2024

Airlines eye big opportunities as Thailand, China set to waive visas from March 1

Airlines eye big opportunities as Thailand, China set to waive visas from March 1

The airline industry welcomed the recent visa exemption agreement between Thailand and China, saying it should provide opportunities for new routes and increased flight frequencies.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) also anticipates a significant recovery, expecting an influx of 8 million travellers – a 75% rebound compared to pre-Covid levels in 2020.

Seen as a notable achievement of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government, the lifting of visa requirements should have a positive impact on Thailand’s tourism sector and bilateral relations.

Srettha announced on January 2 that the two countries had agreed to a permanent visa exemption for travel between the two countries.

This follows Thailand’s earlier visa waiver for Chinese nationals for a 30-day stay from September 25, 2023, to February 9, 2024. Now both countries have permanently cancelled visas as of March 1.

Airlines, meanwhile, have been quick to respond with plans to introduce new flight routes to several Chinese cities and increase frequencies to cater to the growing travel demand.

Thai Airways International announced its summer flight schedule starting from March 31, with increased frequencies to key Chinese destinations, namely:

• Bangkok-Beijing: 7 round-trip flights per week

• Bangkok-Shanghai: 7 round-trip flights per week

• Bangkok-Guangzhou: 7 round-trip flights per week

• Bangkok-Kunming: Up from 5 to 7 round-trip flights per week

• Bangkok-Chengdu: Up from 4 to 7 round-trip flights per week

Similarly, Thai Vietjet will launch direct flights from Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi International Airport) to Beijing from March 1. The airline already flies from Bangkok to Shenzhen and Hangzhou.

Airports Authority of Thailand (AOT) director Kerati Kijmanawat said he expects a 75% surge in arrivals thanks to the visa cancellation.

In line with this, AOT is planning to collaborate with TAT to offer airlines incentives like discounts on aircraft landing fees, aircraft service charges and boarding bridge charges. The aim is to encourage airlines to introduce new flight routes, promoting tourism in both main and regional airports managed by AOT and encouraging second-city tourism.