In Depth: A Look at Thailand’s Nok Air

Nok Air is a budget airline founded in 2004 in Thailand. It is the third-largest carrier at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok. This quirky airline’s vibrant planes make it stand out from the crowd, but who exactly is Nok Air? Let’s take a closer look at this airline and what they have to offer.

Nok Air aircraft
Nok Air is a budget carrier based in Thailand. Photo: Getty Images

Who is Nok Air?

Nok Air is a budget carrier under the management of Nok Airlines Public Company Ltd. It was founded in 2004 and was initially registered as Sky Asia Limited on 10th February. It subsequently changed its name to Nok Air and began trading in the stock exchange of Thailand in 2013.

Wutthipum Jurangkool was appointed chief executive officer and executive director in June 2019. He represents the Jurangkool family, the major shareholders’ group of the airline.

Thai Airways International is the second major shareholder.

Thai A350
Thai Airways is a dominant stakeholder in Nok Air. Photo: Getty Images

Nok Air’s fleet

Nok Air uses the same aircraft and maintenance team as Thai Airways. There are currently 22 planes in service, according to Nok Air has 14 Boeing 737-800s and eight De Havilland Canada DHC-8-400s presently in its fleet. Each aircraft has a vibrant individual livery inspired by its name Nok, which means bird in Thai.

Historically, the fleet was more extensive, but the airline had to downsize due to its financial troubles. The airline used to operate several ATR 72-500s.

Nok Air aircraft
Each Nok Air aircraft has a unique design. Photo: via Wikimedia

International and domestic routes

Nok Air is currently at a standstill due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but they usually operate services to 21 destinations within Thailand. They offer several packages including a ‘fly and ferry’ package to some of Thailand’s islands and a ‘fly and ride’ package, which connects passengers to several major cities.

Nok Air also operates international routes, which include cities located in Myanmar, Vietnam, China, and Japan. Additionally, it has partnered with Scoot Airlines, a joint venture between Singapore based Scoot and Nok Air, to offer several services to Singapore.

As part of its service, Nok Air offers a free 7kg carry on baggage allowance, free drinking water, and free advanced seat selection.

Nok Air at Krabi Airport
Nok Air has been undergoing rehabilitation following financial troubles. Photo: Binder.donedat via Flickr

Rehabilitation plan

Over the last few years, Nok Air has been faced with financial difficulty, which has kept it in the media spotlight. As reported in the Bangkok Post, the airline operated at a loss of approximately $87.3 million (2.8 billion baht) in 2018 and $9.5 million (304.2 million baht) in the first quarter of 2019. More recently, it was in the news when an airport worker in Bangkok was crushed to death by a Nok Air aircraft. 

When the loss-ridden airline appointed Wutthiphum Jurangkool to take the helm in 2019, it was hoping that he would be able to turn around its misfortune. Jurangkool has experience in rescuing a business from the red zone.

A rehabilitation plan was introduced, which has been effective so far, and by the end of 2019, Nok Air was looking to start recruitment and to increase its fleet. In late 2019, Nok Air introduced several new international routes, including a flight from Bangkok to Hiroshima. It also increased the flight frequencies of several domestic services.

However, the airline suspended its operations due to the pandemic, which has caused a new financial worry for the company. In light of this, it was one of eight airlines in Thailand seeking financial help from the government. 

Have you flown with Nok Air? What do you think if its vibrant planes? Let us know in the comments.