Nok Air chief executive officer, Patee Sarasin, shares his views with our sister magazine, Routes News, on the Thai aviation market and the establishment of new joint venture NokScoot.
Q) How is the Thai air travel market currently performing and where is growth coming from?
A) "It’s performing well and has benefitted from a huge organic growth from 4 million to 20 million passengers annually. The growth is coming from small-medium-enterprises (SME) business travellers, as well as leisure passengers. As a result, we saw a 44% increase in passengers in 2013."
Q) Can you tell us more about the Myanmar market and why it is Nok’s only international market to date?
A) "Myanmar is very close to home, so it was a natural market for us to expand into when the time was right. We wanted to make travel between the two countries more accessible, as there was a demand for both markets. People from Myanmar were coming to Thailand for work, travel and medical check-ups, and people from Thailand were coming to Myanmar for travel and business."
Q) NokScoot – how did the joint venture come about?
A) "The JV with Scoot came about through the common interest of both airlines to expand and grow in the region through the launch of a low-cost carrier for long-haul flights."
Q) Why was a JV the best way for you to enter the medium to long-haul market?
A) "The JV with Scoot was a strategic decision since Scoot has the knowledge of the medium and long-haul market, as well as operating a fleet of widebody aircraft. Nok Air and Scoot will leverage the strengths of both airlines to offer passengers a unique flying experience."
Q) What are your network plans for NokScoot?
A) "NokScoot’s network plan will be primarily focused on North Asia from Bangkok Don Mueang to meet the demands of capacity for both markets."
Q) Which routes are you initially looking at operating?
A) "Our initial focus will be Japan, as there is a high demand for both outbound and inbound flights."
Q) Are you considering other joint ventures along the same kinds of lines and structure?
A) "Not at the moment, but you never know what could happen in the future."
Q) Can you tell me more about Nok Air’s fleet mix and your future plans for the fleet?
A) "We currently operate a fleet of Boeing 737-800s and ATR 72-500s. At the recent Singapore Airshow, we committed to order eight Next-Generation 737-800s and seven 737 MAX 8s, and four Bombardier Q400 aircraft."
Q) Do you plan to stick to the point-to-point, quick turnaround model or would you look at growing ‘hubs’ and increasing transfer traffic (as AirAsia is doing at KLIA?)
A) "This is something that we will discuss at a later stage of development."
Q) How has being a publically listed company changed, or impacted, the airline?
A) "Not much has changed for us, except we have more cash flow, which will enable us to expand our services and network."
Q) Considering the impact of ASEAN Open Skies in 2015 – will it happen and how will Nok Air be affected?
A) "With the ASEAN Open Skies, Nok Air will continue to move forward and have greater access to the ASEAN, making travel more accessible to everyone within the region."
Q) Has there been an impact on travel demand as a result of the political unrest in Bangkok over the past six months?
A) "There has been some impact, but it is something that we have been through many times before and we are confident that travel demand will pick up from where it left off."
This article originally appeared in our sister magazine, Routes News.DON'T MISS the latest issues of Routes News which are available at this year's World Routes.