(BANGKOK, eTN)- Competition heats up among Gulf carriers flying to Thailand. Earlier this year, Oman Air reinforced its Bangkok-Muscat route. Etihad Airways expanded recently its code share with Bangkok Airways and Qatar Airways will soon launch its first flights to Phuket. What about Emirates Airlines, one of the oldest carrier in Bangkok with 19 years of presence? The Dubai national carrier currently looks rather at consolidating its network in the region than at expanding it, as stressed by Khalid Bardan, Emirates area manager for Thailand and Indochina.
Emirates has already a strong presence in Southeast Asia. The carrier flies to all major capital cities in the area, Vietnam excepted. And Bangkok was one of the first in Asia to welcome the Airbus A380; slightly over a year ago. “We have extremely high load factors on our Bangkok route and despite the troubles in April and May, we maintain an average load factor of 75%. We suffered a little bit during the political troubles in Bangkok but not as much as we expected. And demand bounces back rapidly, making us very confident for the rest of the year”, explains Khalid Bardan. The market has been partially balanced by Thai travelers. “Lots of them escaped Bangkok during the troubles and flew with us. We get good demand to Hong Kong, Sydney and also to Europe via Dubai. Our most popular connections out of Thailand are to France, Germany, Italy and the UK. But we experienced also a rise into transferring traffic to Africa, especially during the Football World Cup,” adds Mr. Bardan.
Although Emirates seems to slowdown its expansion in Southeast Asia this winter, the airline continues to offer one of the densest networks in the Far East. Close to 200 weekly frequencies link Dubai to Asia (Tokyo Narita being the most recent addition) with the biggest network being served out of Bangkok. “We continue to see Bangkok as our gateway in Asia and to the Pacific”, tells Mr. Bardan. Four daily frequencies are offered from Dubai to Bangkok with a daily service going to Hong Kong and another one being prolonged to Sydney and Christchurch. “We are in fact the only carrier out of Thailand to propose a direct flight to Southern New Zealand. And flights are also performing extremely well on this route’, says Emirates area manager. From October 1st, Emirates will prolonge its A380 service to Hong Kong from Bangkok. “I am sure that this route will also drag a lot of travelers due to the popularity of this aircraft and its great comfort in all classes of travel”, says Mr. Bardan. Emirates is the first carrier in the world to offer in the A380 two showers for first class passengers and flat-bed in both First Class Suites and in the Business Class cabin. But even passengers in the economy class will enjoy one of the most generous seat pitch of any airlines at 33 inches.
They are no plans for Emirates to further reinforce its capacities in the region. Some 15 years ago, Emirates already served Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The route was rapidly discontinued due to poor load factors and probably as it was not the right time to go to Vietnam. Announcements were made a couple of years ago by Cambodia that Emirates would start flying to Phnom Penh. But Khalid Bardan denies that the airline has any plan for the time being to ply Indochina’s skies. It is only a question of time. With the delivery of at least another 70 Airbus A380 and 70 Airbus A350 over the next years, the airline will have no choice than continue to open new routes. And Indochina will certainly be part of it.