My wife has a medical appointment in Bangkok tomorrow and asked me to book her flight which is more challenging now that we have Thai Smile, AirAsia, and Nok Air that fly from Khon Kaen to Bangkok.
I enjoy doing this just like I enjoyed it when I worked for the US Government and when I traveled from Hawaii to Thailand. Always on the lookout for a good deal, good arrival time, and now with three airlines servicing Khon Kaen, competition. Except, Thai Smile doesn’t seem like it wants to play.
Thai Smile is the Low Cost Carrier, little sister to Thai Airways, an airline that is run by the state and has been run into the ground of late due mainly to mismanagement and the inability to understand the current markets and how to compete with other carriers.
See, Thai Airways/Thai Smile management is old school similar to that pointed out by AirAsia in a scathing interview by Kathleen Tan:
AirAsia marketing expert says TAT doesn’t understand technology, independent travellers, or how to cater to Asian markets.
The same holds true for those at the helm of Thai Airways/Thai Smile. Remember when the President of Thai Air was going to solve all of their woes by promoting Thainess?
Now, Thai Airways, which has been losing money hand over fist, thinks they will turn a profit at the end of this year. They are blowing smoke out of their collective asses.
This is solely based on the return of tourists now that the political situation in Thailand is “normal”.
Let me show you how and why Thai Airways is not going to turn the corner yet.
My wife’s medical thing is at no set time – walk in – so earlier arrival in Bangkok is best. So, she has the departure choices of Nok Air at 0805, AirAsia at 0825, or Thai Smile at 0845. Here are screen captures of prices:
Now, to be fair, with Nok Air and AirAsia, there are some possible additional fees:
With AirAsia, I actually lowered the price by a couple hundred baht as my wife will not be checking a bag but she did want a window seat – so it was minus 330 plus 74 for a grand total of of just under 1,100 baht – about 1/2 the price of Thai Smile. This is what the old cronies at Thai Air don’t get – competition. AirAsia was the winner.
Now, there are plans to cut staff by 1,500 over the next couple of years, but I think there are other ways to save money. A very easy one is to stop serving food on short, domestic flights. I don’t need a mini-meal, which is usually a mystery meat sandwich, on a 45-minute flight. Do like AirAsia and give people the choice to purchase a meal for an additional 100 baht or so.
Thai Smile could also do like AirAsia and give people the opportunity to pay for additional checked baggage weight ahead of time at a lower price than at the airport.
I got nailed my last trip as Thai Airways and Thai Smile were transitioning at Khon Kaen but still at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. I flew Thai Airways from Khon Kaen to Bangkok and had 25 kilograms weight allowance for checked bags. Upon my return, the flight from Bangkok to Khon Kaen was now under Thai Smile and I was only allowed 15 kilograms for checked bags.
I managed to shift some items to my backpack (thank goodness that wasn’t weighed) and was still about 5 Kg over but the nice lady marked me for only 3 Kg but I had to go and take a number with a mass of people to pay the extra 55 baht per Kg. Have it online so I can avoid the hassle.
To also show how screwed Thai Airways is – there are two stories online today – one at the Bangkok Post and the other at The Nation – THAI set for return flight to profits in Q4 and the other THAI bid to stave off cash-flow crisis – the latter letting the world know that Thai Airways lost 12 billion baht last year and looks to lose between 12 and 20 billion baht this year.
A lot of what Thai Airways is praying for depends on the return of foreign tourists to Thailand and that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Tourism was down about 10% for the first 6 months (June was down 24%) compared to 2013 and there are no signs that tourism will return despite the so-called political stability.
Thai Airways and Thai Smile need to look at what the other low cost carriers in the region are doing to make a profit and learn fast how to emulate them.
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