Thai Lion receives air operator's licence

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Lion Air's low-cost Thai unit has received its air operator's licence from Thailand's ministry of transport.

This comes as Thai Lion took delivery of its first Boeing 737-900ER in Thailand on 19 October. The carrier is expecting to take delivery of its second aircraft in November, before it launches operations by the end of 2013.

"The next step is for us to get the air operator's certificate from the department of civil aviation," says a Lion spokesman.

He adds that the Thai unit has recruited 100 employees, including some 19 pilots and 25 maintenance personnel.

Thai Lion will operate out of Bangkok's Don Mueang airport to avoid congestion at the capital's main terminal Suvarnabhumi.

"Don Mueang is currently under utilised. This means that the aircraft can achieve high turnaround times and can take off and land relatively easily without queuing," says Lion's spokesman.

The carrier will launch operations with services to Jakarta twice daily, Kuala Lumpur once daily and Chiang Mai thrice daily. It also plans to launch more domestic services as well as services connecting Bangkok to southern China next year.

The plan is to add another 10 aircraft - made up of 737-900ERs and 737-800s, to its fleet next year.

The Indonesian low-cost carrier's strategy is to turn Bangkok into a transit hub, to which its Indonesian passengers can fly and transit to connect to countries in northeast Asia within a shorter time.

Thai Lion is 49% owned by Lion Air, with the remaining 51% stakes held by a number of Thai investors which have not been disclosed. Lion would only say that its partners are not airlines, though one is involved in an aviation-related business.