Thai Smile plans to conduct its first flight on 1st July, said Thai Airways in its annual report. Thai Smile is a new fully owned Low Cost Carrier subsidiary of Thai Airways.
The new LCC is expected to utilize the TG code, but will have a lower cost base than its parent. The new airline will likely be based at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport, and not at the Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as previously stated.
What happens to Nok Air?
Nok Air is a domestic only low cost airline in Thailand, of which a 49% stake (increased from the original 39%) is held by Thai Airways. Thai Smile will sit between the mission profiles of both Nok Air and Thai Airways.
While Nok Air is a complete no frills carrier, Thai Smile will offer a two class service with some frills - essentially making it a hybrid carrier - while Thai Airways will offer a premium full suite of service. When it comes to the route network, Nok Air will be limited to Don Mueang airport and domestic services only, and Thai Smile will serve trunk domestic routes, as well as regional international routes.
Thai Smile will be operating a fleet of brand new Airbus A320 aircraft, while expanding into wide body aircraft too is not ruled out. The airline will acquire four aircraft within 2012, growing it to 6 in 2013, 8 in 2014, and stabilizing at 11 from 2015 - per the present plan.
According to the presently available information, the airline will begin with domestic services, but has earmarked a number of destinations to be launched internationally. These include Da Nang in Vietnam, Shenzen in China, Amedabad, Hyderabad and Kochi in India, Seoul in South Korea, Macau, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia. Expansion of Thai Smile into a base in Phuket cannot be ruled out either.
The trigger to change Thai's strategy has without a doubt been caused by the invasion of LCCs into Thai's market strongholds and in large part by Thai AirAsia. These latest changes see Thai Smile being positioned as a hybrid value carrier, rather than a pure LCC, and might even go head-to-head with Malaysia Airlines' new Sapphire operation at some point in the future.