Bangkok Airways' all ATR fleet will soon be expanded with the introduction of Boeing 717 jets

Thai regional carrier Bangkok Airways has confirmed plans to begin jet operations this year, with the lease of two Boeing 717s.

The deal, revealed by Flight International last month, will see two aircraft delivered in November this year and April 2001, on seven-year leases from Pembroke Capital. Talks are under way to acquire two additional 717s.

According to Bangkok's vice-president of maintenance and engineering Marc Kirner, the 100-seaters will serve increasingly popular routes to the Thai island of Koh Samui - where the airline opened its own airport in 1989 - and to Siem Reap, Cambodia. "These markets are growing to an extent that justifies jet service," says Kirner, adding that Thailand is experiencing an 8%annual growth in tourism.

Preparations for the jets began 18-24 months ago, says Kirner, in which time the carrier has hired eight extra crews to ensure that it has the personnel to operate the new aircraft. The carrier now operates an all-turboprop fleet, comprising one ATR 42-300 and eight ATR 72s. The airline operates both scheduled and charter passenger and cargo services, and its scheduled network covers tourist destinations in Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore.

Meanwhile, Flight International's sister on line service Air Transport Intelligence reports that rival Thai regional Angel Air has run into financial woes, and recently had to return two Boeing 737-400s to Malaysia Airlines after failing to complete lease payments. A China Southwest Boeing 757 has been taken on a one-year lease to enable operations to continue.

Source: Flight International