Following a stuttering start, in which the inaugural flight was met with huge fanfare from local officials only for flights to be suspended a day later, Nok Air is calling time on its direct service to and from Betong. Teerapol Chotichanapibal, chief commercial officer at the airline says Betong, in the southern province of Yala, now faces too much competition from international destinations, which are having more success attracting Thai tourists.
According to a Nation Thailand report, Teerapol says Nok Air’s 3-phase Flying Betong Direct project will be terminated once phase 2 ends. For phase 1 and 2, the airline worked with tour companies to offer packages for direct flights to Betong between April 29 to July 29 and again between July 31 and October 28. However, Teerapol says the aircraft in use on the route are now needed on busier routes.
The flights were serviced by Dash 8 turbo prop aircraft from De Havilland Canada.
“Nok Air will not continue the services in the next phase because we will have to use the planes on other routes, where there are more passengers under winter flight schedules, such as the Bangkok-Mae Hong Son and Bangkok-Mae Sot routes.”
He goes on to say that Thai tourists are now opting to travel overseas, making up for the time lost when Covid-19 travel restrictions were in place. Teerapol says destinations such as Japan and Singapore are proving more popular than Betong, adding that direct flights to the southern city could resume once the novelty of overseas travel wears off for Thai tourists.
“We will have to wait for Thais to get over the excitement of a renewed chance to visit these foreign destinations before we consider whether to resume direct flights to Betong.”
Meanwhile, a clearly disappointed mayor of Betong blames high airfares for the fall in demand. Sakul Lenglukkul says the route was popular when flights were being subsided by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to promote domestic travel.
Since then, he claims the rise in air fares is putting would-be travellers off, pointing out that passengers would not want to pay the 6,000-baht fare to fly from Bangkok to Betong when they could fly to Penang in Malaysia for just 3,000 baht.
SOURCE: Nation Thailand