Taipei--Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thai Airways, said Tuesday it will launch direct flights between Kaohsiung and Bangkok on Oct. 1 to meet increasing demand.
The carrier said the new route will capitalize on the Taiwanese government's "New Southbound Policy," which seeks to forge closer ties with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members, as well as India, Australia and New Zealand.
The policy has helped create momentum for Taiwan-bound travel thanks to a visa waiver program for Thai visitors introduced in August 2016, said the airline.
According to Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, visitor arrivals from Thailand to Taiwan reached 149,226 over the first six months of 2017, up 82 percent from last year.
Through its inclusion in the Taiwan-Thailand flight network, Thai Smile Airways said, its parent company will be better placed to further explore the market as it currently only flies between Taoyuan and Bangkok.
Thai Airways flew the Bangkok-Kaohsiung route starting in 1990, but ended the service in 2004 due to the impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) on the travel industry.
Thai Smile Airways said it will operate daily round-trip services between the two cities on Airbus A320-200s, which can seat 162 passengers.
Vivian Lin (???), a public relations officer with Thai Airways, also sought to clear up public misperception that Thai Smile Airways is a budget airline.
"We are an economic carrier that offers the same full range of services as legacy airlines," Lin said, adding that economy cabin passengers, for instance, are entitled to 20 kilograms of luggage free of charge.
The new route will be Thai Smile Airways' first route serving Taiwan since it began operations in 2012 and will also break the monopoly on the route currently held by China Airlines (??), one of Taiwan's two biggest carriers.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel