The low-cost joint venture airline between Thai Airways International and Tiger Airways is likely to begin operations only in this year's third quarter at the earliest, putting it at least six months behind schedule.

A senior Thai executive says ThaiTiger Airways is still awaiting approval from the government to start flights, and the airline is still ironing out details on the operational level.

The two partners had said earlier it plans to begin flights by March 2011, operating services out of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

"It should be up and flying in around the late third quarter... we need a longer time," says the executive. He adds that the new airline's launch route will likely be a service between Bangkok and Singapore.

Tiger's spokesman says both airlines are still committed to the joint venture, but acknowledges that the new airline is not likely to begin operations in this quarter.

However, he adds that the delay is due to the wait for Thai government approval. "If the approvals are in place, we can begin in March," he adds.

Thai will have a 49.9% share in ThaiTiger, with another 1.1% to be held by employees of the new joint venture. Tiger will own 39% of the new airline, and Declan Ryan's holding company Ryan Asia will own the remaining 10%.

The joint venture, since it was announced last August, has touched a raw political nerve in the country. Thailand's transport minister Sophon Zarum has raised concerns over how the new airline would affect Nok Air, Thai's low-cost affiliate. Thai is majority state-owned.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news