HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Orient Thai launches low cost flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Bus transport increased to handle New Year travelers

SriLankan Airlines adds to India offerings

Bill Heinecke to speak at 9th Mekong Tourism Forum

AirAsia to take off with 99 baht flights

“ICE” offers Emirates customers choice entertainment and convenience

Orient Thai launches low cost flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

‘One-Two-Go’ on Orient Thai for B 999

Marion Vogt
Photos Michael Vogt

Orient Thai Airline has followed the call of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, helping Chiang Mai become the aviation hub of the North, and making air travel more affordable.

On December 3rd the first 999 baht flight arrived in Chiang Mai, a fully booked B 757, with many VIPs from Bangkok, who were curious to see the development of Chiang Mai.

Chao Kokaew Prakaikavil na Chiangmai receiving flowers from Governor Suwat Tantipat.

The first people to disembark in Chiang Mai were the Chairman of Orient Thai Airlines, Kajit Habanananda; the MD and C.E.O Udom Tantiprasongchai with his family, and Chao Kokaew Prakaikavil na Chiangmai.

The Governor of Chiang Mai, Suwat Tantipat, waited to personally welcome the first arrivals. Governor Suwat, said he hopes that this low price flight on Orient Thai Airline will make it even more attractive for Bangkokians to plan a leisure stay in the Rose of the North.

Governor of Chiang Mai, Suwat Tantipat, between Udom Tantiprasongchai, C.E.O and MD of Orient Thai Airlines on his right, and Kajit Habanananda, Chairman of Orient Thai Airlines on his left, together with VIPs and guests from Bangkok

Udom Tantiprasongchai, Orient Thai Airlines CEO, said that the promotion rate will be valid for a few weeks only. Orient Thai Airlines will be leasing up to six Boeing 757 jets for its low cost operations as well being used in its mainstream international operations. He said “Even though we will lose money, we have to do it to make ourselves known. At “One-Two-Go”, when we say 999 baht, it applies to all of the 200 seats on the 757 jet - period!”

Orient Thai Airline have started with four daily flights from and to Bangkok, but plans eight daily flights for their Boeing 757, taking up to 233 passengers in economy class. The 999 baht promotion is for the first 3 weeks, and will increase to about 1,400 from December 25th onwards. Tickets will on average be at least a third cheaper than Thai Airways International (THAI).

Passengers will pay for their ticket at check-in and have their photo taken and printed on the combined boarding pass and ticket to speed their way through security. Those without baggage will be able to buy their ticket and reach the gate in three minutes. Passengers will be encouraged to buy tickets at the airport office or check-in counter without making reservations, however a telephone hotline will be available for passengers who feel more comfortable with a reservation and paying for their ticket beforehand. Prepaid smartcards to purchase Orient Thai Airlines flights and other services will be sold at convenience stores such as 7-11, Family Mart and Watsons. Regular travelers will receive a raft of benefits and rewards via those cards. Buying or topping up a card garners an instant reward. Each card will carry a greater value than its purchase price. For example, a 5,000 baht card may be worth 5,500 baht. Top-ups will draw similar bonus credits. Personal details can be stored on the smartcard by the check-in agent, instantly making the passenger a frequent flyer member and future ticket purchases faster. Frequent flyers will enjoy benefits such as a free flight on their birthday. There will also be discount fares for seniors and students, plus special offers for everybody on early bird and red eye flights. The smartcard can also be used to pay for services provided by Orient Thai Airlines’ travel partners including hotel rooms, tours and car hire.

Bus transport increased to handle New Year travelers

Ministry of Transport (MOT) is confident that the number of buses will be adequate to serve the higher demand of tourists traveling during New Year’s festival.

Deputy Transport Minister, Nikorn Jamnong said that the Transport Company Limited would increase bus frequency during the New Year’s period to cater to the large number of commuters during the festive season.

Nikhon said that the authorities would tighten security at the bus stations in major tourist attractions to ensure the safety of Thai and foreign commuters.

The ministry is considering cutting VIP 24-seater bus fares, currently priced at 755 baht, to compete against the low cost airlines. The reduction can be offered to travelers if there is no food service during the trip, Nikorn said. (TNA)

SriLankan Airlines adds to India offerings

Taking advantage of the Indian open skies policy effective from December 1 to February 28, SriLankan Airlines will add new flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Trichy during that period.

>From December 1, weekly services from Colombo to New Delhi increased from six to seven, to Mumbai and Trichy from five to six, and to Bangalore from four to five. From December 15, SriLankan will operate daily to Mumbai and Trichy and offer six flights each week to Bangalore. >From December 16 to February 17, two more flights to Chennai will be added each week, raising weekly services to 17.

SriLankan offers 45 services each week to eight cities in India, including Gaya, Trivandrum and Cochin.

SriLankan’s head of commercial, G T Jeyaseelan, said, “The limited open skies policy gives us the opportunity to better serve the Indian population. Last year visitors from India to Sri Lanka comprised the largest number of visitors from any one country to the island.”

Meanwhile SriLankan Airlines has also launched air taxi operations from the international airport at Katunayake, to major tourist destinations within the island including Galle, Bentota, Kandy and Dambulla in December. The air taxis will reduce travel time from four to six hours by road to a 30-minute flight. Once established, more destinations will be added to the service. (TTG Asia)

Bill Heinecke to speak at 9th Mekong Tourism Forum

Bill Heinecke, chief executive officer and chairman of Royal Garden Resorts (RGR), will be one of the key speakers at the upcoming 9th Mekong Tourism Forum scheduled for March 26-28, 2004 in Chiang Mai.

Heinecke will close out the forum with a keynote address entitled “Private Sector Investments in Mekong Tourism”. RGR is one of Thailand’s biggest hotel owners with nine properties under brands such as Four Seasons, Marriott and Anantara.

The opening keynote address will be delivered by Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Hotel and Tourism Management chairman, Professor Kaye Chon.

Breakout sessions will debate how to better protect, position, and promote Greater Mekong Sub-region tourism.

The sessions will be led by PATA vice president, Peter Semone; the dean of the School of Travel Industry Management at the University of Hawaii, Professor Walter Jamieson; and Asian Development Bank consultant Les Clark. (TTG Asia)

AirAsia to take off with 99 baht flights

The latest regional low-cost airline is to take to the sky with 810 flights from Phuket to Malaysia, and 900 baht flights from Bangkok to Singapore, before offering 99 baht promotional flights from Bangkok to Phuket and Chiang Mai in January next year.

Announcing the launch of AirAsia the airline’s Executive President Tony Fernandez said that the airline’s inaugural flights between Phuket and Kuala Lumpur would begin on 8 December this year, with tickets costing 810 baht.

A second route linking Bangkok with Johor Bahru would be launched on 2 February 2004, with one-way tickets priced at 900 baht, he said, adding that the routes would be serviced by 148-seater planes.

Fernandez also announced plans to launch domestic flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, costing no more than 900 baht, and from Bangkok to Phuket, priced between 500 baht and Bt600 baht

The flights would begin on 8 January, with an average of 6-7 flights on each route per day. (TNA)

“ICE” offers Emirates customers choice entertainment and convenience

Emirates new $8 million ICE (information, communication and entertainment) system starting in December will feature 100 movies and 50 TV channels on demand, 350-plus audio channels and 40 in-flight games.

The award-winning airline is launching the industry’s most sophisticated on-demand video and audio system, making it the first to show BBC World news updates in-flight, and first to let travelers send and receive email and SMS from any seat for just $1 a time.

On non-stop trips to and from Australia - and next year North America - they will test their knowledge in trivia tournaments, save the world from space invaders, sink a putt at mini-golf, challenge a colleague to a game of Hangman, or try their skill at 10-pin bowling.

Every passenger can also telephone anyone anywhere for US $5 a minute, using an individual handset to access the world’s most widely-used in-flight telephone system.

Emirates is also pioneering Room Service, allowing them to phone over their requirements to the cabin crew at any time.