BANGKOK (eTN) – Will Air Berlin’s entrance into the Oneworld global alliance fundamentally change the airline’s business in Thailand, the only country served by the carrier in Southeast Asia? Stefan Magiera, general manager of Thailand Air Berlin Group, tells to eTurboNews what new opportunities are seen for the airline.
eTN: What will change with Air Berlin entering Oneworld?
MAGIERA: The announcement is too recent, and it is difficult to elaborate on the expected changes now. The official integration is only planned for 2012. However, we can already observe first signs of a closer cooperation with airline members of Oneworld. Codeshare agreements have just been signed up with American Airlines and Finnair, and other agreements are likely to follow. But Air Berlin, this future membership, will help us to further reinforce our positions in both Berlin and Düsseldorf our two main hubs. In both cities, we sell in a year between 3 and 3.5 million tickets.
eTN: Is Air Berlin likely to look at reshaping its network to concentrate its offer more around its Berlin and Düsseldorf hubs?
MAGIERA: Both cities fill up already this hub function: For example, we see very important transfer traffic developing between Thailand and Scandinavia but also Southern Europe via Berlin. From Thailand to Düsseldorf, we have a lot of Dutch travelers who find Düsseldorf[‘s] proximity to the border more convenient. With our Oneworld integration, it is likely that we will reorganize connections to shorten transfer times and make our hubs even more efficient. By the way, the date of 2012 to integrate Oneworld will coincide with the opening of the Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, our newest hub.
eTN: How do you foresee the development of your Asian presence?
MAGIERA: We have no plans to open new routes for the time being, beside[s] our current destinations of Bangkok and Phuket. With our new partnership with Finnair, we will, in fact, gain better access to China or Japan. We will, on our side, reinforce our capacities to Thailand from Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Munich this winter with 9 weekly flights from these 3 airports to Bangkok and 5 weekly flights from Berlin and Munich to Phuket.
eTN: How is the market doing in Thailand after the difficult times experienced in Bangkok last May?
MAGIERA: Surprisingly, the traffic was more resilient than we expected. Passengers’ losses were very limited. And more encouraging is the fact that traffic is bouncing back very quick. Looking at booking for the coming months, we feel very confident. Thailand continues to be an attractive destination for Europeans for the quality of its service, the friendliness of its people, and a good tourism product. Also because lots of Europeans coming to Thailand are in fact repeat travelers. We also see a rising number of Thai people traveling with us to Europe. They represent up to 20 to 25 percent of our total passengers, and the rate increases year after year.