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High airfares challenge Songkran spirit, Thai airlines respond

Songkran

With Songkran’s high airfares dampening holiday spirit, Thai airlines seek CAAT’s approval for more domestic flights, aiming to make travel more affordable during Thailand’s beloved Water Festival.

As the Songkran festival approaches, heralding Thailand’s most celebrated holiday period, the spirit of travel among Thais faces a dampening effect, primarily due to the high cost of airfares. The Thai Travel Agents Association, through its vice president Kriangphon Piyaekchai, has voiced concerns that the extended Songkran holiday, while potentially attracting foreign tourists with its 21-day Water Festival campaign, may not see a significant increase in outbound trips by locals. The high airfares, a consequence of the aviation industry’s slow recovery from the pandemic’s impacts, have made international travel during Songkran a luxury that only those with substantial financial resources can afford.

The surge in airfare prices is notably steep, with a five-day tour package to Japan now starting at 40,000 baht (US$1,112), up from the pre-pandemic price of approximately 30,000 baht (US$834). This price hike, coupled with a limited number of charter flights available to accommodate the outbound demand, has resulted in a preference for domestic travel or postponing travel plans until costs become more manageable.

To address the public’s outcry over soaring airfares, six Thai airlines, including major carriers such as Thai Airways International, Bangkok Airways, Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, Thai Vietjet and Thai AirAsia, have sought permission from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) to operate more domestic flights during holiday periods. This move aims to provide more affordable travel options by increasing the supply of available seats during peak travel times. The airlines’ request follows a meeting with Transport Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit, prompted by social media uproar over exorbitant flight prices, such as the reported 10,000 baht for a one-way trip from Bangkok to Phuket.

In response, the CAAT has considered both short-term and long-term measures to mitigate the issue. For the short term, the proposal includes allowing airlines to increase the number of flights during the holiday season, particularly in the morning and evening, to offer cheaper ticket alternatives. This adjustment requires coordination with various aviation and airport authorities and is expected to be implemented upon approval.

For the long term, the CAAT plans to work with airlines to readjust the ceiling for domestic airfares, promising a new ceiling will be established as soon as possible. This measure acknowledges the need for a pricing system that accommodates the airlines’ operational requirements while also considering the financial burden on travelers.

The initiative by Thai airlines to seek approval for more domestic flights as a response to public concern over high airfares reflects a broader challenge facing the travel industry. As Thailand works to rejuvenate its tourism sector post-pandemic, balancing affordability with the operational costs and constraints of airlines will be crucial in ensuring the Songkran festival remains a time of joy and celebration for both locals and visitors alike.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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