THAI Airways, according to Thai newspapers , is planning to create yet another regional airline.
Tentatively called "Thai Lite", it will be a wholly owned THAI subsidiary and operate as a full-service legacy airline on routes within a six-hours flying time from Bangkok to destinations such as southern China, India and Indochina. So as not to cannibalise the business of its mother airline, it will take up routes not served by THAI such as Guilin in China or slow-traffic routes such as Hyderabad in India.
Piyavasti Amranand, THAI president, is backing the project, which is part of an ambitious growth plan that includes the set up of new low-cost carrier Thai Tiger Airways (TTA) in collaboration with Tiger Airways. During the last event to mark THAI's 50th Anniversary in October, Amranand revealed that legacy carriers such as THAI were fast losing market share to budget airlines such as Air Asia, which has been competing with the flag carrier even on domestic routes. TTA is a reponse to this. Meeting the press after the conference, the outspoken official said that even if THAI would not profit from the venture, it was worth the effort to stir up the market.
Thai Lite is expected to take off in 2011 at the earliest, if not 2012, and will use new-generation narrow-body jets such as Boeing B737s-800/900s and Airbus A320s and A321s as well as short-haul versions of the B787 Dreamliner wide-body aircraft.
However, its launch is dependent on whether TTA can get off the ground (see news). Thailand's transport ministry is still questioning the legality of TTA's start up.
Margie T Logarta