In a move seen as bizarre by most Western travellers, Thai Smile Airways, the regional carrier of Thai Airways International, has become the first carrier to allow passengers to purchase seats for life-like dolls.
Known as Luk Thep, the dolls have become something of a national phenomenon in Thailand, with endorsements from local celebrities. These expensive dolls (retailing for hundreds of US dollars) are thought to possess the spirit of child angels and are pampered by their owners, who believe this will bring them good fortune.
Luk Thep doll [Source: Bangkok Post]
According to Bloomberg, an internal memo has been issued to all Thai Smile staff detailing that the dolls are to be treated as real passengers and served snacks and drinks accordingly during the flight.
The memo states that the Luk Thep dolls have undergone a “spiritualisation” process that gives life to them, and are therefore to be treated like real children.
However, this service only applies to passengers who have paid the full-fare ticket price for their model companions, otherwise the dolls will be treated as standard carry-on luggage.
Update: Following this morning's news, reports have emerged that the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in Thailand will forbid airlines from classifying the Luk Thep dolls as passengers. While airline customers will still be allowed to purchase seats for their dolls, the tickets must be registered under actual people's names, and the dolls must be stored under the seats or in overhead compartments for take-off and landing, just like any other carry-on baggage. The DCA intends to call a meeting with airlines as soon as possible to make clear its stance on this superstitious behaviour.
For more information, visit thaismileair.com