The Thai government has officially approved the Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) for Thai AirAsia X, the new Bangkok-based long-haul low-cost carrier.
The decision means that Thai AirAsia X is now expected to receive its AOC before the end of the year, bringing forward the launch date of its first flight into 2013, rather than Q1 2014.
The new Thai carrier was first announced this summer and will initially operate using a fleet of two Airbus A330-300 aircraft, featuring approximately 370 seats. Unlike Thai AirAsia’s short-haul operations, AirAsia X will offer a business class cabin with flat-bed seats and complimentary in-flight meals. Passengers in the economy class cabin will still be able to pay for hot and cold snacks.
The new carrier will be based at Bangkok’s second airport, Don Mueang, and plans to operate medium- and long-haul flights to destinations including Japan, China, South Korea and Australia.
“With its 10-year track record, Thai AirAsia has built a strong domestic and international short-haul network that can provide feeder traffic to Thai AirAsia X, which plans to be based in the same Don Muang Airport,” said Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of AirAsia X.
“Thai AirAsia X will also focus on flying to long-haul destinations in North Asia and Australia where AirAsia X has already built up brand awareness and operating bases, to speed up its market penetration. Passenger traffic from destinations in these markets to Bangkok is very high, largely leisure travellers, and primarily served by higher-cost full service airlines. Thai AirAsia X expects to significantly grow tourist arrivals to Thailand,” he added.
The Thai venture marks the first overseas subsidiary for AirAsia X, which currently operates flights from Kuala Lumpur. Following the cessation of its unsuccessful services to Europe, the carrier has more recently concentrated on regional routes in Asia Pacific, and recently announced plans to relaunch flights to India.
The new two-pronged Thai venture would put AirAsia in further direct competition with Thai Airways, which recently set up regional low-cost subsidiary, Thai Smile, in part to combat the threat of Thai AirAsia.