Bulk Of Commercial Flights To Thailand Won’t Resume Until September 2020, First Wave Of 50,000 Foreigners About To Arrive This Week

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A Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand official just announced that there is very little commercial appetite of airlines to resume flights to the country even after the airspace reopens.

Thailand Entry RequirementsAccording to a news report the CAAT doesn’t expect many flights to take place until at least September of this year at the earliest, although a wave of foreigners who secured approval will now begin to arrive in Thailand again starting next week.

There is still regular commercial air traffic between Thailand and other countries so despite the term “flight ban” being frequently used this actually never stopped. Qatar Airways flew permanently between Bangkok and Doha with many passengers using them for repatriation.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that despite a possible travel bubble there will be not much demand and therefore there wouldn’t be any resumption of flights until September.

A senior director in the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said [on June 20] that international flights were not likely to resume in Thailand until late September.

CAAT director-general, Chula Sukmanop, was [reported saying] none of the airlines he met had expressed interest in resuming international flights by next month when the order shutting down the country’s airspace is due to expire.

He attributed the reluctance to uncertainty over the government’s policies on international travel.

“I believe international flights will resume this September,” Chula [was quoted as saying]. “All of the airlines could not assess the demand for air travel. They have to wait and see the situation by the end of this month.”

“The government has to make a final decision before the country’s airspace could be open, but it does not mean an all-out opening for air travellers since only business people would be allowed to take the flights under the so-called travel bubble proposals,” he added. …

Although flights have resumed (domestic only), the AoT think getting back to normal volume however will take longer. Looking at the long-range forecast for recovery AoT announced flights wouldn’t return to ‘normal’ before October 2021.

The president of Airports of Thailand, Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, reported that air travel should be back to pre-Covid19 levels by October 2021, 18 months away. But for the rest of this year, the Thai aviation sector is expecting a significant drop in flights and passenger numbers. …

Thailand’s airspace has been closed to international flights since April due to the coronavirus pandemic. Only essential journeys such as repatriation and diplomatic flights were allowed to fly into the country, though most domestic flights have resumed after weeks of waning infections in the country with no new infections being reported for 24 days. Thailand reported 3,146 cases of Covid-19 and 58 deaths. …

As mentioned I find the phrasing of “resumption of international flights” to be rather strange since these international flights have never stopped in principle. Yes, a vast amount of airlines have stopped flying to Thailand but not all and right now a variety of European and Asia based airlines are keeping a regular schedule. I’m booked on a flight from Bangkok to Frankfurt in a few weeks as well.

In the meanwhile beginning July 1st the first 50,000 foreigners will start arriving again under the government designed exempt scheme I wrote about last week.

The first group of foreigners to be allowed to enter Thailand will comprise business representatives, skilled workers, experts, people with Thai families, teachers, students and patients who agree to quarantine, according to the government.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), on Wednesday elaborated on the government’s plan to allow foreign nationals back into the country. The plan was drafted by a sub-committee of CCSA.

He said most will be required to accept 14-day quarantine after their arrival.

The spokesman said about 50,000 foreigners are likely to visit the country under the new rules.

They include about 30,000 people expected to arrive for medical and wellness tourism.

Others include about 15,400 skilled workers/experts; 2,000 teachers, educational personnel and students; 2,000 foreigners with Thai families or with residences in Thailand; and 700 businesspeople/investors. Members of this group have already registered for visits and agreed to undergo quarantine.

Another group to be admitted includes businesspeople and investors who will pay short visits, and guests of the government and governmental organisations.

They would be tested for Covid-19 both before and upon arrival, have health insurance and be monitored by medical personnel.

A further group to be welcomed consists of tourists and travellers who would arrive under the travel bubble scheme, Dr Taweesilp said. Details for this group had yet to be finalised.

My recent article included a diagram who would be allowed under the new policy:

There is still no consensus about who would be allowed in as part of the travel bubble and how this scheme would look like in terms of monitoring.

John wrote about the list drafted by the EU last week concerning countries (nationalities) who would be welcome again to visit Europe from next month on.

This list includes Thailand as well and one would just hope that this is contingent on reciprocity which means the countries on said list are only welcome if EU citizens can likewise travel back to these listed destinations. I’m especially interested in Japan and South Korea.

It can be anyones guess when regular tourism will look somewhat “normal” again and the Bangkok Post article quotes officials tying that possibility to a vaccine. Good luck with that.

At the same time let’s not forget that the now bankrupt Thai Airways has still grounded all their international flights until further notice while select domestic flights are operational again.

Conclusion

It’s hard to say what way Thailand chooses to go forward in this tricky situation. A slow and careful approach to get the economy at least somewhat back on it’s feet is definitely not a wrong strategy especially since Thailand has so far been more or less COVID free except for some repatriated citizens who are quarantined and dragged the virus in from abroad.

The medical tourism might play a key role here. Thai hospitals are very popular for medical treatment, in particular with patients from the Middle East as well as wealthy individuals from surrounding countries in ASEAN. When you arrive at Bangkok Airport you can see many counters of the local private hospitals who offer all round care packages to foreigners coming for medical treatment including airport concierge and transfers. These services bring good money into the country.

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