Thailand has allowed domestic air travel to resume, with Nok Air, AirAsia, Thai Lion Air and Thai Vietjet Air returning to the air last Friday.
The flights were operated between 14 airports and Bangkok’s Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi. The 14 airports are in Lampang, Mae Sot (Tak), Phitsanulok, Buri Ram, Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, Roi Et, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Trang, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and Krabi.
All domestic flights are operating under strict requirements, including social distancing (for example during embarkation and disembarkation) as well as compulsory face masks for all passengers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear for flight crew.
Nattapong Saengsirirattana, managing director of Thai Leisure Co., told TTG Asia that at this stage, there would still be little to no likelihood of domestic tourism.
“We haven’t reached that stage yet. With the current inter-provincial travel regulations, it’s too difficult,” he said, referencing the increased inspections and forced quarantines upon entry in provinces such as Buri Ram or Phitsanulok.
In those provinces, upon arrival, travellers wishing to remain in the province must self-quarantine for 14 days. Their identification documents will be withheld by the authority during the quarantine.
In Nakhon Phanom, non-Thais are altogether barred from entering unless permitted by the governor, and in Krabi, non-residents are barred from entering unless certified to be free from the coronavirus from the point of origin. Travellers without a health certificate will be quarantined at local quarantine centres at their own expense.
Non-residents, except those with proven work commitments in the province, are prohibited from entering Trang.
All provincial governors have been allowed to implement their own measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, provided those measures are as strict or stricter than those prescribed by the national-level Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
Nattapong opined that airlines resuming operations would face costs challenges.
“With social distancing measures, small planes would most likely be able to fit a maximum of two passengers per row, seated at the window. Due to the new restrictions, they’re also losing income from in-flight F&B purchases,” he said, musing that airfares might rise to cover higher costs.
However, Nattapong believes that those with essential travel needs may be willing to pay higher fares.
Meanwhile, Phuket airport will remain closed until May 15. The tens of thousands stranded on the island wishing to leave by road must register online by May 8 to obtain fit-to-travel certificates. – Additional reporting by Anne Somanas