Korakot Chatasingha, General Manager-India, Thai Airways, talks with T3 about the performance of Thai Airways in India as well as launch of its new product ‘Thai Smile’ in the Indian market
We started in India with our Kolkata operation and today we have 49 flights a week. We fly regularly to six destinations in India and Varanasi and Gaya during winter. As far as performance of Thai Airways in India is concerned, we have a 68 per cent market share on the India – Bangkok routes. We are also using India as a catchment market as 60 per cent of our Indian traffic goes beyond Bangkok to Australia, Bali, Hong Kong and other places. For 2012, the passenger numbers from India grew by 21 per cent. Flights from all metros are witnessing above 80 per cent load factor. From Delhi, the load factor is almost 90 per cent and we operate double-daily flights to Delhi. Currently, India contributes around five per cent to our overall revenue.
As part of our product strategy, we introduced ‘Thai Smile’ to capture the trend of the customers. Thai Smile is going to operate in leisure segment between key cities in India and Phuket. We are not a low cost airline but we are an affordable airline with efficiency. We are deploying fuel efficient new aircraft on India –Phuket routes. On the pricing front as well, we are trying to fulfill customers expectation to fly affordably and direct to Phuket. ‘Thai Smile’ operates with a new fleet of Airbus A320 and offers two-class configuration: ‘Smile Plus’ and ‘Smile Economy’. We introduced twice-a-week, direct flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Phuket, and Ahmedabad to Bangkok.
Indians’ pattern of travel is changing. They have experienced Bangkok and Pattaya and we should offer them new destinations. Many Indian travellers take Thailand as a repeat destination, and this is the time that we should capture the emerging trend. We are also developing new destinations like Chiang Mai, Krabi, Chiang Rai, among others in India.
We expect a load factor around 80 per cent and higher in the peak season. Moreover, the same aircraft will be used for Phuket-Kuala Lumpur and we expect some of the Indian travellers to use our flights to Kuala Lumpur. In the long term, we will try and develop Phuket as a mini hub. As of now, many airlines come from Hong Kong, Taipei and Frankfurt to Phuket. We see it as a great opportunity and offers NRIs to come to Phuket before going to their home in India. We are expecting a good traffic mix on India-Phuket routes. For our Ahmedabad-Bangkok route, the focus will be the business segment.
‘Thai Smile’ is 15-20 per cent lower than Thai Airways. To commemmorate the launch we are giving a special inaugural fare for the first month. We are also trying to capture the golf, wedding and honeymoon segments. Travellers from these segments prefer to opt for direct flights. So, we see good business opportunities for Thai Smile.
At this moment, we focus on our distribution channel and tour operators that are the key driving force for us. We will also promote ‘Thai Smile’ through our website. We may look at tie-ups with credit card companies. Hotels in Phuket also shows a lot interest in working with us because hotel representatives of various chains are present in India. We have cross-sell activities with some other commercial partners apart from traditional channels.
We classify competition into two categories: full service (Thai Airways, Air India, Jet Airways, Cathay pacific, Philippine Airline) and low cost as many LCCs fly to Thailand. However, in a long term perspective, LCCs will realise that flying to one destination is quite hard for them. In our philosophy, we should have traffic mix from India to Thailand. We offer the best products on India routes. Our USP is that most of our flights leave India in night and reach Bangkok in morning. We are the best choice for larger MICE movements from India to Bangkok as we offer connectivity to many points in India. That’s why our market share is so high.
We still have allocated seats under the bilateral agreement. So we have the liberty to expand to other cities in India. Although there is no immediate plan, we can look at destinations like Amritsar, Kochi and Jaipur, among others.