According to Zhang Wuan, Vice President of Chinese carrier Spring Airlines, flights between Thailand and China have rebounded to 50% of pre-pandemic levels and are expected to resume normal frequencies this year, thanks to high demand and a projected 5% GDP growth in China this year.
Zhang noted that flights between the two countries have become one of the top international routes for the airline, as Thailand remains a popular destination for Chinese travellers. The number of Chinese travellers has rebounded quickly – in some tourist locations they have become the third most popular visitors over recent weeks.
Spring Airlines will operate 82 flights per week connecting three cities in Thailand and nine cities in China this summer, up from 62 flights per week in their recent winter schedule.
The Chinese cities served by Spring Airlines include Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an, Ningbo, Nanchang, Jieyang, Nanning, Lanzhou and Chengdu. The latest route for this season is a daily flight between Bangkok and Chengdu. Bangkok is connected with all nine Chinese cities, while Chiang Mai has direct flights to two cities, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Phuket has direct services to Shanghai.
The frequency of flights this year is expected to match 2019, when the airline operated 148 flights per week between 19 Chinese cities and five Thai cities. Currently, the number of Thailand-China flights on the carrier is around half of the 2019 levels, which is still higher than the overall rate of international flights from China, at 20% of pre-pandemic levels.
With China resuming the issuance of tourist visas for foreigners, Zhang predicted that Thai visitors would account for 20% of passengers per flight, up from 5-10% during and before the pandemic. Shanghai is the most popular destination for Thai tourists, he said.
Zhang also mentioned that concerns about bank failures in the US and economic risks from a global recession would not affect the airline’s operations, as it is confident about business growth this year. He attributed this to a projected 5% GDP growth in China and policies focusing on domestic and international growth.
The average airfare for Spring Airlines’ domestic and international flights is 20% higher than pre-pandemic prices, which is attributed to limited flights and high demand. Zhang said that if flight frequencies increased, the average airfare would drop to pre-pandemic rates.
He also noted that if Thailand were to offer visa-free access for Chinese visitors, airlines could increase flight capacity. Currently Chinese travellers are only able to apply for the 30 day visa-on-arrival (which will revert to 15 days after March 31 unless the Thai government agrees to extend it).
In 2019, Spring Airlines operated more than 16,000 international flights from China. Zhang expects the total in 2023 to reach 50% of that figure.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post