Exclusive Interview, Patee Sarasin, CEO Of Nok Air: “2015 Will Be The Year Of Our International Expansion”


Thailand budget carrier Nok Air is looking at speeding its international development in 2015 despite the set back for its affiliate NokScoot, following ICAO warning to Thailand Civil Aviation over insufficient safety standards. Nok AIr CEO Pata Sarasin tells all about Nok Air ambitions to ASEAN.travel

How is Nok Air performing this year?

Patee Sarasin- The domestic market- which represents most of our activities- is performing very well this year as the political and economic situation is stable in Thailand. Passengers traffic is growing up by 12% on average and capacity demand is catching up very well with the supply. We are particularly happy about Isan destinations and Chiang Rai where we reach load factors of 80%.

How are secondary destinations such as Chumphon, Phrae or Nakhon Phanom performing? 

P.S.- We see a very good evolution on secondary destinations, which shows that the market exists for quick convenient air services to smaller cities from and to Bangkok. We offer the right product thanks to our fleet of 60-seat Q400 as well as ATR72. It is the ideal aircraft to test a market and its potential. If the success is confirmed we either increase frequencies or move to the Boeing 737-800. We experienced this evolution on Bangkok-Mae Sot that we now serve three times a day or on Bangkok-Chumphon with two daily services.

Domestic flights in Thailand are well covered with 23 destinations. Are you now looking at international expansion?

P.S.- You are right. We basically cover most destinations in Thailand beside a few loopholes such as Narathiwat. However, the market is already saturated there with Thai AirAsia and Thai Smile. Well, we had a prudent international development after a first unsuccessful attempt a couple of years ago. We launched last year Bangkok-Yangon and believe me, we are now number 1 with the highest load factor of the entire industry ! We are adding a third daily flight to Yangon from September. 2015 will definitely be the year of our international expansion…

Where will you fly next? 

P.S.- I believe that Vietnam has enormous potential for development. We just announced to fly to Ho Chi Minh City startting first with four weekly B737 services from October 2 before going daily from the end of October. We hope to have in Ho Chi Minh City a similar evolution to TYangon, where we have been facing heavy competition. Meanwhile, we are looking at opening flights to Hanoi, possibly Danang. We can also confirm that we will start flying to Singapore most probably from November. We continue to study the Chinese market where we see big demand. We already fly to Hefei on a regular basis. We now look at services to Chengdu.

How is the situation with your long haul affiliate NokScoot?

P.S.- Well. The ICAO warning affects all Thai carriers. It has pushed back the launch of our flights to Japan and Korea. We managed to limit losses by flying instead to Singapore as well as conducting regular charter flights to China such as Nanjing. We are looking at putting more capacities into China, particularly from Phuket but also we could maybe fly to Taiwan until Thailand DCA situation is resolved. We work closely with civil aviation authorities to help them solving safety issues.

Do you envision any deeper cooperation with Scoot ?

P.S.- We currently work on making the booking system and check-in procedures compatible. It is already the case with NokScoot. Working with Scoot will create more synergies particularly for flying passengers from and to Australia and provide connections to Thailand and Yangon. We could also work closer with Tiger Air, another subsidiary from SIA, the main shareholder of Scoot. The combined network of our three airlines would in the long term bring a lot of benefits for our passengers.