Thai Smile Airways, a regional subsidiary of Thai Airways, will launch direct service from Bangkok to Siem Reap next month in a bid for a slice of the growing tourist traffic between the Thai capital and Cambodia’s biggest tourist draw, Angkor Wat.
The airline will commence service between Bangkok and Siem Reap with 10 flights weekly starting February 1 using Airbus A-320s in an all-economy configuration of 174 seats.
Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said Thai Smile was issued a permit to operate the route this month, having previously operated flights to Phnom Penh as a codeshare for Thai Airways.
“[Thai Smile] had to build its market under the codeshare with the Thai Airways, but now the airline can be independent and have its own flight movements,” he said.
The new route gives parent company Thai Airways – which operates 17 flights a week from Bangkok to Phnom Penh – its first crack at Siem Reap’s busy international airport, which reported 3.2 million passenger arrivals and departures last year.
The Bangkok-Siem Reap route is currently dominated by Bangkok Airways, a full-service regional airline, and Thai AirAsia, a low-cost carrier (LCC). Cambodia Angkor Air, the Kingdom’s flagship carrier, also operates one daily flight.
Smile Air aims to position itself in the gap between full-service and budget carriers, with one-way flights on the route starting at $77 including taxes – comparable with AirAsia’s best fares.
“Thai Smile operates like an LCC because its business model aims at competing [with other LCCs] and domestic carriers,” said Vutha.
Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia Travel Agent Association, said Thai Smile's new route will help bring more tourists to Siem Reap and serve as a feeder to the Kingdom’s other tourist destinations.
“It is a good sign for Cambodia when there are more new airlines, and it reflects the ability of Angkor Wat temple to build the Kingdom’s reputation and attract more tourists,” he said.
Thai Smile Airways currently operates a fleet of 15 Airbus A-320s, with another five aircraft temporarily operating under Thai Airways’ air operator’s certificate (AOC). The company’s CEO, Woranate Laprabang, could not be reached for comment yesterday.