Six Thai airlines have temporarily grounded their domestic flights following an order from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT). Daily COVID-19 infections are now exceeding 10,000. Consequently, CAAT has banned airlines from flying passengers in or out of declared hot zones, effectively grounding the airlines.
Previously, Simple Flying reported Thai AirAsia would temporarily suspend its domestic operations from Monday, July 12. Now Bangkok Airways, Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, Thai Smile, and Thai VietJet have joined the ranks. The airlines have grounded domestic flights from July 21 to August 3.
In response to Sunday’s order from CAAT, Thai Smile moved yesterday to suspend its flights until early August.
“Thai Smile has temporarily suspended all of its scheduled domestic commercial flight operations starting July 21, 2021, until August 3, 2021, in response to the regulations and in support of the containment efforts by the Government of Thailand,” the airline’s owners Thai Airways said in a statement to the Stock Exchange of Thailand yesterday.
Dark red zones cover Bangkok and 12 other Thai provinces
Just 5% of Thais are fully vaccinated, and the country recorded 11,784 new COVID-19 cases on Monday. After successfully managing the first wave of COVID-19, the Thai Government is now scrambling to contain another wave.
The CAAT order covers 13 provinces (including Bangkok) deemed “dark red zones” (so-called because the number of new daily infections in those provinces is exceeding 100). The remaining dozen provinces affected include Chachoengsao, Chonburi, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi, Narathiwat, Pathum Thani, Pattani, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Yala, Songkhla, Samut Prakan, and Samut Sakhon.
Bangkok Airways has suspended its Bangkok (BKK) – Samui (USM) flights until August 3. In addition, Bangkok Airways flights slated to resume on August 1 are deferred until further notice. Those resuming routes included Bangkok – Chiang Mai (CNX), Bangkok – Phuket (HKT), Bangkok – Sukhothai (THS), Bangkok – Lampang (LPT), and Bangkok – Trat (TDX).
Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, and Thai VietJet Air temporarily ended their domestic flights on Monday. While airlines are planning for an early August flight resumption date, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) notes the order runs for 14 days. However, there is no guarantee the Thai Government will not extend the no-fly order.
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Bad news for Phuket Sandbox & Samui Plus
The fresh wave of COVID is bad news for the struggling Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus schemes. The plan to reboot the Thai tourism sector by allowing travel to these traditional holiday hotspots is failing to take off.
According to FlightGlobal, just 7,462 passengers arrived on international flights into Phuket over the first 17 days of July. Once there, travelers will now find pubs, bars, karaoke and entertainment venues closed. On Saturday, just six international flights touched down at HKT. Listed on the arrivals board were three Thai Airways flights and a service each from Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines.
Some domestic flights to Phuket and Samui from Bangkok are allowed over the 14 day period. These flights ostensibly cater to international travelers heading there. Under strict conditions, appropriately vaccinated international travelers can continue to transit through Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Thailand’s airlines have been savagely impacted since the onset of the travel downturn. Thailand is normally highly reliant on international tourism. Tourism makes up around 20% of the country’s GDP. The many airlines normally buzzing around Thailand typically enjoy a slice of the profits from the approximately 40 million tourists who visit the country each year. But with Thailand mired deep in another wave of COVID, it will be some time before travelers start filling the seats on Thailand’s airlines again.