A year ago, Puttipong Prasartthong-Osoth took over from his father the destiny of Bangkok Airways. Strategic changes have been swiftly introduced by the new CEO and president, who looked at business in a more down-to-Earth way than his pioneering father. “We faced last year a hard time, which forced us to re-evaluate our model. Crisis has changed the travel environment with competition putting fares under pressure. Our first step is now to consolidate our position before to think again about expansion,” he explained in an exclusive conversation with eTurboNews.
The philosophy of a fully-integrated concept airline will be retained but Prasartthong-Osoth acknowledges that the price structure has to be adapted to a very competitive environment. “We must show that our boutique airline concept does not necessarily mean high fares but a cozy good service and caring staff. We believe that our product is a good value for [the] money, and we don’t want to change this,” he said.
Last year was marked by a number of cuts into the international network. Bangkok Airways suspended then flights to Ho Chi Minh City, Fukuoka, and Hiroshima. The future remains also uncertain for Bangkok Airways flagship route Bangkok-Siem Reap. One of the most lucrative routes for the carrier, it could be threatened by ongoing political tensions between Thailand and Cambodia during the last six months.
“We are confident that we will continue to operate the route, as we played a pioneer role to promote Siem Reap and as traffic continues to remain steady. Let’s leave the future of Thailand-Cambodia to politicians. We want to continue helping Cambodia on its path to prosperity,” said Prasartthong-Osoth. Meanwhile, the airline launched in February a new domestic route between Bangkok and Lampang via Sukhothai, following the bankruptcy of PB Air. The airlne is also reinstating frequencies on Bangkok-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Rangoon.
But all the cuts might only be temporary. “We are looking at all the routes we cut last year and could reinstate some of them depending [on] the competition but not before a year[‘s] time. Our target is still to serve up to three heritage cities in each country, which forms the Mekong Sub-Region.”
The airline will still take delivery of its long-haul aircraft Airbus A350 by 2015 and will look at the possible routes to be served by the aircraft. However, Prasartthong-Osoth is not so certain to fly to Europe with the future A350. A few years ago, original plans from his dad mentioned flights to London and probably Germany. “All will depend [on] the evolution of the demand, and it is hard to predict what will happen in five years’ time. But we could also use the A350 to northeast Asia, India, and Australia”, he added.