Nok Air’s expansion now includes international destinations

Image: Thai Airlines
Logo: NokNok Air calls itself “the Thai airline that Flies Smiles” and certainly full credit is deserved for its management’s sense of good sportsmanship. On its third anniversary in July the CEO, COO and EVP Flight Operations all appeared in a TV advertisement for a special “3rd anniversary 3 baht for 33,000 seats” promotion (that’s about US10 cents).

Image: International RouteThailand’s colourful Nok Air was started in July 2004 as a partnership between Thai Airways (who own a 40% share) and a variety of private investors. Since then its growth has been focussed on the domestic market. By LCC standards this could hardly be described as meteoric compared to the likes of Air Asia. Until now the airline has operated primarily 737-400s but the delivery of a new 737-800 will coincide with the launch of new international flights to Hanoi (Vietnam) starting on 1 November.

Dom route focus + high frequency

Image: Map of routesNok Air’s network has focussed on domestic routes and despite the opening of the new main Bangkok airport at Suvarnabhumi (BKK) in 2006 it now operates back at the ‘old’ airport at Don Muang which is much closer to downtown Bangkok. Originally it was forced to move to BKK but when the government agreed to re-open Don Muang (now recoded as DMK) Nok Air had little hesitation in returning although services to Bangalore and Hanoi have to be operated from Suvarnabhumi. This curiosity requires Nok Air to operate a Krabi service to BKK to position an aircraft for the Bangalore service – this operates as a night flight arriving at Bangalore at 02:55 in the morning and departing at 03:30 local time.

On domestic routes frequencies are as high as five flights per day to Chiang Mai and Nakhon Si Thammarat with Hat Yai served four times daily. All domestic destinations are served at least daily with the exception of Loei which is served just Friday and Sunday early in the morning.

The new double-daily Hanoi service will be operated by a BKK-based 737-800. Nok Air also has co-branded flights operating with SGA Airlines offering three routes including Chiang Mai to Pai and Chiang Rai and from Bangkok to Hua Hin. SGA operates Cessna Caravans.

Flights to Chiang Rai and Ubon Ratchathani are also new to the airline. These are routes that Thai Airways has struggled on and have been passed on to Nok Air. However, even though Nok Air’s net profit trebled in 2006 from $1.2 million to $3.9 million, the whole exercise is still essentially marginal.

Image: Aeroplanes
What’s with the ATR72? Apart from the all-Boeing fleet Nok Air’s bright humming bird-themed colours also appear on a 66-seat ATR72 which operates daily flights from Chiang Mai to both Mae Hong San and Udon Thani.

Table: Nok Air from Bangkok


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