Thai Smile, the “light premium” subsidiary of Thai Airways, is set to take off for Macau on July 1, the first step of a programme to evolve into a strong regional and domestic flight operator.
As reported earlier (see story here), it will offer economy and upgraded seating and inflight meals. New information released also lists a 20kg luggage allowance, access to technology for reservations and e-ticketing and recognition and points for members of Thai’s Royal Orchid Plus loyalty scheme, among others, at prices between 10 to 15 per cent lower than those on the legacy carrier. It will serve major local routes in Thailand and key points in Asia within flight times of one to three hours from Bangkok.
Woranate Laprabang, managing director of the Thai Smile Business Unit, told Business Traveller: “One brand cannot cover all the needs of the market. So, we have Thai Airways that is known for its global reach, and we have Thai Smiles which is a competitive alternative, positioned between premium Thai flights and the low-cost airlines currently operating within Asia.
“We will appeal to those who can do without some amenities on short segments. We will cut down on some of the food and the IFE, which will result in attractive fares.”
Laprabang revealed that he and his team faced the challenge of satisfying their local clientele, which was demanding enhanced service on domestic routes, as well as opening up new international destinations that were not cost effective for Thai to fly to. This would lead to Thai Smiles taking over some of its operations such as the Bangkok-Phonm Penh and establishing new ones such as Bangkok-Chiangmai and Phuket-Chiangmai-Bangkok. Its wish list of international touchdowns include Kaohsiung, Luang Prabang, Danang and Mandalay.
Thai Smile’s fresh concept is complemented by a fleet of 11 brand-new Airbus A320-200 jets, consisting of 174 seats and configured in a 3-3 layout. The first five rows will be designated as “Smile Plus” and provde extra pitch and other service elements designed for the upper end of the market. This area is to be set apart from the rest of the cabin by a curtain.
Laprabang said Thai Airways had not given up on the dream to operate its own low-cost carrier. In 2010, the carrier announced a joint-venture with Tiger Airways, dubbed Thai Tiger, but the plan was waylaid by bureacracy (see story here) until both parties called off proceedings.
For more details about Thai Smiles, visit www.thaiairways.com
Margie T Logarta