Interview With Captain Woranate Laprabang, Thai Smile CEO
How far is Thai Smile independant of THAI Airways International?
Woranate Laprabang- Thai Smile Airways is subsidiary airline of THAI Airways International. THAI Smile has its own board of directors; however, we have to report to Thai Airways on our business performance.
Is there now a common strategy between both carriers?
W.L.- Although we have an independent management team, we join forces by sharing routes’ designation or doing common marketing for the most benefits of passengers. Our common strategy includes the opening of new routes, coordinating our timetables to help smoother connections between domestic and international flights as well as common mileage collection for our frequent flyer program.
Is Thai Smile only taking over former routes flown by TG? Or are you looking to open new destinations? If yes, what are these new destinations?
W.L.- Thai Smile is only looking at routes of not more than 4 hours away from Bangkok. To make it more efficient, we do not overlap with Thai Airways existing routes. We consequently open new routes where we see the potential and gives us competitiveness. We recently introduced new flights to four popular routes in India: Gaya, Varanasi, Jaipur while we will open Lucknow in December. We currently are the first and only airline with regular schedules to these four cities out of Bangkok. There is indeed a big potential for Thai Smile to serve second-tier Indian cities, especially as they are over 1.25 million Indian travellers coming to Thailand. For India, we are looking into open more second tier cities to support Thai Airways’ network. We will soon announce more destinations.
How is the airline perceived by the customers?
W.L.- We have been in the market for more than 5 years now. And so far, we receive very good feedback from our customers and we are pleased to see so many repeat customers. Unlike other carriers, ThaiSmile is a ‘Full Service” airline. We can be described as the ‘Regional Wings’ of Thai Airways International. We provide excellence and quality services to meet the needs of short-haul travelers with an affordable price, while ensuring greatest comfort and convenience for a superior travel experience. Of course, we also receive complaints. Who doesn’t actually but we receive them as a way to improve ourselves.
What would you expect in terms of total number of passengers in 2016? Forecasts for 2017? When do you think that THAI Smile could be profitable?
W.L.- We expect to reach 4 million passengers in 2016, and increase to 5.3 million passengers in 2017. The airline industry is hampered by low profit margins and THAI Smile Airways is now increasing its productivity consistently year-on-year.
How do you work with Nok Air and Nok Scoot? Any cooperation plans?
W.L.- We have a codeshare agreement established between Nok Air and THAI Smile Airways on domestic destinations in Thailand. We also have an agreement with Nok Air to transfer our passengers on their flights in case of an emergency and in order to keep our passenger schedule on time.
Fleet growth and network expansion in 2017 and 2018?
W.L.- As of July 2016, our fleet consists of 20 Airbus A320-200 aircraft. Although we do not have plan to increase our fleet at present n we are aggressively increasing our market expansion especially to China, India and ASEAN.