Bangkok Airways plans to resume international flying for the first time in 16 months to help support Thailand’s efforts to kickstart inbound tourism.
Flights between Samui International (USM), located on the island of Ko Samui, and Singapore (SIN) will restart on Aug. 1, initially operating three times per week on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays. Service will be onboard Airbus A319 aircraft.
The route will become the Bangkok-based carrier’s first overseas flight since March 2020, when the COVID-19 crisis grounded many of the world’s air services. Prior to the pandemic, the airline operated 20 international routes to destinations in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam among others.
“The Samui-Singapore route is anticipated to bring back confidence to Thailand’s tourism. We have assured that both Samui and Singapore have robust processes in place to ensure travels between the two cities can be undertaken safely,” Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said.
The outbound flight PG961 departs Samui at 3.05 p.m. and arrives in Singapore at 6 p.m. The inbound flight PG962 departs SIN at 7:30 p.m. and arrives in USM at 8.35 p.m.
Bangkok Airways’ pre-pandemic international network (January 2020):
Credit: OAG Mapper
The restart of international flights from Ko Samui forms part of a strategy designed to allow foreign travelers who are fully vaccinated to enter Thailand without quarantine. The island of Phuket became the first destination to reopen under the program on July 1, with Ko Samui and the surrounding islands of Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao allowing entry from July 15.
There is no quarantine requirement under this initiative, only testing, but tourists have to remain on the islands for 14 nights before they are able to travel elsewhere in the country. Further popular leisure destinations, including Chiang Mai and Bangkok, are expected to progressively open over the coming months.
Thailand’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, with the latest figures released by the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports showing there were just 5,694 visitor arrivals in June 2021, down by 99.8% on the same month two years earlier.
The move comes despite a record number of coronavirus cases reported on July 26 for the second day running. There were 15,376 cases and 87 new deaths in Thailand as the Delta variant continues to sweep across the Southeast Asian nation.
Thailand had managed to contain COVID-19 for much of 2020, but the sharp rise in the number of infections in recent weeks continues to put a strain on the country’s healthcare system. So far, only 5.6% of its 66 million population have been fully vaccinated.
To help halt the spread of the virus, many Thai airlines have significantly reduced domestic flying. OAG Scheduled Analyser data shows there are 101,779 domestic weekly departure seats in Thailand this week (w/c July 26, 2021), down from almost 285,000 at the end of June.
Meanwhile, as Bangkok Airways plans to restart its USM-SIN route, Singapore’s government hopes to allow quarantine-free travel for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from September. Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said on July 26 that the city-state would review existing measures in early August.
Photo credit: Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images