Thai Airways will return to the UAE capital after a six-year absence with flights between Bangkok and Abu Dhabi International Airport starting on October 26, the airline announced yesterday. The "smooth as silk" airline follows other Asian carriers launching services into Abu Dhabi to capture growing demand and news that Etihad Airways carried a record number of passengers last month. Thai Airways will fly four times a week between the two capitals using the wide-bodied Airbus A330-300 with 41 business-class and 239 economy-class seats. It also plans to fly the larger Airbus A340-600 on the route, said Bashar al Kour, the Abu Dhabi and Al Ain sales manager for Thai Airways. The airline has appointed Salem Travel as the general sales agent.
Thai Airways also flies to Dubai, but suspended flights to the capital in 2003 because of profitability concerns. Mr al Kour said the company decided to return after seeing encouraging statistics provided by Abu Dhabi airport, the civil aviation authority and other airlines. "All the statistics show that the route now has growing potential," he said. Thai Airways, whose premium lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport won the Best First Class Lounge award by Skytrax this year, hopes to attract business travellers, tourists and passengers travelling to Thailand for medical treatment. It also hopes to service the long-haul market for travel to Asia and the Pacific Rim including China, Australia and New Zealand by using its Bangkok hub as a transit base for passengers.
The new airlines underscore Abu Dhabi's rosy positioning in an industry that is forecasting losses of US$9 billion (Dh33.03bn) for carriers globally this year as consumers cut back on air travel because of the recession. The airport, which was named the fastest-growing in the world last year by Airports Council International, saw Singapore Airlines increase its services from three to seven flights per week in March. AirAsia X, a long-haul budget airline, will also reportedly use Abu Dhabi as a regional base for flights to Europe and North Africa from next year.
Etihad, which operates more than 50 flights from its Abu Dhabi hub, flew 616,000 passengers last month, a 9 per cent gain from the same period last year. The airline hopes to carry seven million passengers this year, a 15 per cent rise. "Despite the current economic challenges, Etihad continues to attract high volumes of traffic across all three cabins on our global network," James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad, said yesterday.