Thai Airways - fourth time lucky?

THE Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is in negotiations with Thai Airways to reintroduce a direct flight between South Africa and Bangkok.

Director of the TAT office in London, Chiravadee Khunsub, could not say when the flights would be introduced but expressed her confidence that negotiations would be successful.

“It ties in with our strategy to grow tourist numbers from South Africa to 120 000 pax (from the 102 000 recorded in 2018) by the next financial year.”

When the national carrier pulled out of South Africa for the third time in January 2015, trade speculated that the extremely low fares and seasonality of the destination had led to the decision to withdraw.

While operators say competitive pricing is key, it should be realistic and not the “silly” R2 000 airfare (excluding taxes) it offered previously. “It also needn’t be a daily flight,” said Wendy Goutier, product and contracting manager for kulula holidays. She suggested that the airline could fly two days a week and possibly up its frequency during peak season.

Lize Maartens, lead in marketing for STA Travel, reiterated a need for competitive fares, highlighting that many travellers were happy to fly indirect.  “They would pay a bit extra for convenience but only if the price point is close.”

Thompsons Holidays’ Vivienne Mellows, cautioned that a decision to re-introduce a direct flight from South Africa would need to be long term. “They will not get the trade support if there is any uncertainty about the longevity of the airline in the market.”

Wendy agreed. “The previous flight was very popular and, with a direct flight, we would see even more than the 10% increase recorded last year.”

She added: “A direct flight would shorten travelling time and also open up destinations such as Bangkok for groups. Shopping trips to Bangkok would also come back into play.”