SIA to cancel 19 flights as travellers avoid Bangkok

Singapore Airlines will axe 19 flights to Bangkok in the coming weeks as political tensions in the Thai capital keep some travellers away.

Travel agents are also seeing fewer bookings as leisure travellers opt for less-troubled spots in Thailand like Phuket. The slowdown has even affected Bangkok's popularity as a destination for corporate travel, and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) events, they said.

SIA, which flies five times a day to Bangkok, will cancel about one in 10 flights between Jan 14 and Feb 25.

Affected customers will be put on other flights or given refunds if they choose to cancel their plans, airline spokesman Nicholas Ionides told The Straits Times.

SIA is a major carrier on the Singapore-Bangkok route, deploying its Boeing 777 and Airbus 330 aircraft that can typically seat between 285 and 320 passengers.

Other key players include low-cost carriers Tigerair, AirAsia and Jetstar. All three, which operate smaller single-aisle planes, said their flights are operating as usual.

Industry watchers though did not rule out future cancellations among the budget players, saying that unlike full-service carriers that tend to plan their schedules weeks and months in advance, low-cost carriers typically give travellers shorter notice.

Dynasty Travel's director for marketing communications Alicia Seah said travellers with confirmed bookings to Bangkok are adopting a wait-and-see attitude and there are few fresh bookings.

She said: "We used to receive about 20 Mice-related calls per week from people inquiring about Bangkok but now there is none."

If the political crisis persists, the travel firm expects a 70 per cent drop in the number of bookings for the January-March quarter compared to the same three months last year, she added.

Chan Brothers Travel also saw a 20 per cent year-on-year dip in the number of bookings to Bangkok last month, said spokesman Michelle Yin. Not everyone is staying away though, she said.

"We have about 100 people heading to Bangkok for the Chinese New Year break later this month which is about the same number as last year," she added.

Retired civil servant Mary Chai, 90, who is affected by SIA's flight cancellations, said: "My nephew just came back from Bangkok and did not experience any problems so I'm going ahead with my plans.

"SIA has cancelled my return flight and given me a later departure on the same day but I'm trying for an earlier flight so I don't have to miss a family dinner."

karam@sph.com.sg


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