Thai Lion Air
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Thai Lion Air is a Lion Group subsidiary carrier which launched services from its Bangkok Don Mueang hub on 04-Dec-2013 with Boeing 737-900ER equipment. The carrier operates on several domestic routes and provides international services connecting to other Lion Group hubs in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
Location of Thai Lion Air main hub (Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport)
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider Thai Lion Air fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
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Thailand’s regional market is poised for rapid growth as Kan Air expands its newly acquired ATR 72 fleet. Kan Air is using the 66-seat turboprop to expand at its Chiang Mai base, launch several routes from U-Tapao airport near Pattaya and potentially serve a new airport it is constructing on the resort island of Koh Phagnan.
Thailand’s two largest LCCs, Nok Air and Thai AirAsia, are also expanding their regional operations. Nok is adding two turboprops to its fleet in 2015 while Thai AirAsia is using its expanding fleet of A320s to launch services to secondary destinations which traditionally have only been served with turboprops.
The regional expansion in Thailand is driven by potential opportunities in underserved markets as well as the overcapacity that is now plaguing domestic trunk routes. But there is a risk the regional market could also quickly become oversupplied, particularly if China’s Hainan Group follows through on plans to launch a new joint venture regional carrier in Thailand.
Competition in Thailand’s domestic LCC sector intensifies further as Thai Lion, Nok & AirAsia expand
Thailand’s domestic market has become a major battleground for three of Southeast Asia’s leading low-cost carriers. Thailand’s domestic LCC sector recorded passenger growth of over 30% in 2014 and could see similar growth in 2015.
But the growth has come at the expense of yields and profitability as all players have had to lower fares to compete. The outlook for 2015 remains relatively bleak as the price wars have continued.
Thai Lion has been the main provocateur, pursuing rapid expansion since launching services at the end of 2013. But Nok and Thai AirAsia have also been expanding rapidly, leading to overcapacity.
Competition in Thailand’s domestic market will intensify further in 2015 as Thai Lion Air pursues further expansion. Thai Lion has quickly established a significant presence on a handful of trunk routes and will likely be competing on all the main domestic routes of Nok Air and Thai AirAsia by the end of 2015.
The Lion Group affiliate launched services at the end of 2013 and already accounts for 17% of domestic LCC seat capacity in Thailand. Thai Lion could potentially capture a 25% share by the end of 2015 as it takes delivery of several additional 737s.
Seat capacity and passenger numbers in Thailand’s domestic LCC sector increased by over 30% in 2014. But the growth has come at the expense of yields and profitability. More rapid domestic growth is expected in 2015 and the intense competition could make it difficult for the market to return to profitability even with the reduction in oil prices.
Thailand passenger growth moderated significantly in 2014 as civil unrest drove a drop in international traffic. Total passenger traffic growth was in the low single digits, marking the first time since 2010 that double digit growth was not achieved.
Market conditions should improve in 2015, leading to the resumption of international growth, as the political situation stabilises. But overcapacity remains a concern as competition intensifies further.
Thailand’s dynamic LCC sector continues to gain market share and pursue rapid expansion. Thai Airways, which saw passenger numbers drop by an alarming 17% in 2014, is now in restructuring mode but any further reductions in capacity by the flag carrier will be more than offset by competitors.
Competition in Thailand will intensify further in Mar-2015 when Thai VietJet Air begins scheduled services. The new joint venture carrier will become the fourth LCC in a crowded domestic market that grew almost 20% in 2014.
But the Vietnam-based VietJet Group is pursuing a relatively conservative strategy for the Thai market. Thai VietJet plans to only operate three A320s in its first year and mainly serve international routes.
Avoiding highly competitive routes would be a wise policy as Thailand already faces overcapacity and it will take time for the VietJet brand to gain traction. Thai VietJet could become more of a niche player in selected lucrative growth markets such as Thailand-China rather than a significant competitor in Thailand’s dynamic LCC sector.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series of analysis reports on the VietJet Group.
Thailand continues to be an extremely challenging market with all four of Thailand’s main carriers reporting losses for 3Q2014. Combined losses in 3Q2014 at Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air and Thai AirAsia were about USD150million on revenues of about USD1.85 billion, continuing a negative trend which started in 2Q2014.
Thailand’s international market has been significantly impacted by political instability, which started in late 2013 and reached its apex in 2Q2014. Meanwhile the domestic market has been impacted by overcapacity, driven by rapid expansion from Thailand’s three low-cost carriers and a slowdown in the local economy.
The pace of recovery in Thailand’s economy and tourism sector has so far been slower than anticipated. There should be some improvement in 4Q2014 but a full recovery is not likely until at least 2015.