Thai Airways International is moving to suspend international flights, as Thailand prepares to implement a state of emergency on 26 March to stem the coronavirus outbreak.
The carrier says the outbreak has seen “no sign of relief” and that the situation in Europe and elsewhere is getting “even more severe”, forcing it to reduce flights and implement cost-cutting measures.
Since 25 March, Thai has suspended flights to several Asian countries and transferred its domestic flights to Chiang Mai, Krabi and Phuket to subsidiary Thai Smile. Flights to Australia will be suspended from 27 March, and those to Europe will end on 1 April.
Services to South Asia, the Middle East, New Zealand, Italy, and parts of Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia had been suspended previously.
The suspension of international services and transfer of its domestic services to Thai Smile will result in a temporary grounding of the carrier. Cirium schedules data shows that domestic capacity made up nearly 26% of the airline’s capacity in February.
However, in the interim, Thai will fly cargo services on some routes, and operate charter services to transport stranded passengers or upon the request of government agencies.
As for Thai Smile, the carrier announced on its website the suspension of all international flights since 23 March. Cirium data shows that Thai Smile flies to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and these destinations make up 23% of its February capacity.
With the move, both Thai Airways and Thai Smile are joining Bangkok Airways and the country’s low-cost carriers in suspending international services. Thai Smile and Bangkok Airways’ overseas flights have been suspended since 22 March.
Thailand plans to impose a state of emergency through a decree that will be announced on 26 March. This will order that a management office to deal with the outbreak be upgraded to an emergency office, and that a working committee will be set up. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha did not announce any measures during his televised speech on 24 March, other than to urge his citizens to avoid travel to their hometowns, or if travel is essential to quarantine themselves at home.