Two airlines to resume domestic flights

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Empty of check-in counters are seen at the Suvarnabhumi Airport as the government extended a ban on incoming passenger flights until the end of April, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Bangkok, Thailand April 16, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air will likely be the first to resume domestic flights, starting May 1, according to aviation authorities.

The routes will hinge on the decision of each province to ease its lockdown.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand had a meeting with representatives from 20 airlines on Thursday.

CAAT director Chula Sukmanop said after the meeting Thai AirAsia would resume domestic services on May 1 while Thai Lion Air would rather wait to see whether the state of emergency would be extended from April 30. 

The routes each airline will resume depend on the lockdown exit strategy of each province since some have closed their airports.

“We have required airlines to sell tickets for 70% of the capacity of each plane model by taking into account social distancing. Airlines will have to take this measure into consideration when considering resuming services,” Mr Chula said.

The distancing rule applies from ticket sales to seat layouts, he added. “A small propeller plane with 70 seats can now carry up to 49 people.”

Flights longer than 90 minutes must set aside seats in the last two rows in case someone falls sick on board, he said.

Passengers are required to wear masks at all times. No food and drinks will be served or sold on board and food is not allowed on flights either because masks will have to be removed while eating, he added.

Mr Chula said although airlines were not allowed to raise fares at the moment, they might be higher, but not more than the ceiling of 9.40 baht per kilometre, compared to 3-5 baht used by airlines now. “Too expensive fares will backfire as people will stop using the services.”

On international flights, no airlines have made requests to resume flights, he said.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak is far from over in several countries, he said, any decision to allow international carriers to resume services to the country needs to be weighed carefully.