Thailand has enjoyed a boost in Chinese tourism for the past year, but the ultimate test for the country’s air travel capacity will be during the next two weeks with more than 3.45 million planned arrivals.
Another surge in air passenger traffic is taking place at Thai airports as Lunar New Year revellers, especially from China, start scrambling to the country this week.
The number of passengers passing through Thailand’s six major airports during the holiday season, running from today until Feb 18, is expected to jump 21% over last year’s period (Jan 19-31) to more than 3.54 million.
That increase is in tandem with a 16% rise in the numbers of booked aircraft movements in the period, which would top 21,085, said Somchai Sawasdeepon, the acting president of Airports of Thailand Plc.
Combined international passengers for this year’s Lunar New Year holidays are projected to reach 2.29 million, while domestic travellers are expected to hit 1.25 million.
Mr Somchai noted 30 scheduled and charter airlines have sought to put 883 extra flights through Suvarnabhumi during the period, with China Eastern Airlines topping the list with 280, followed by Bangkok Airways (108), China Southern Airlines (58) and Shenzhen Airlines (44).
Don Mueang will also be busier during the coming holidays, with average daily passenger numbers growing to 45,738, up from 24,797 on a normal day, and flight numbers rising to 382 from 277.
The increased traffic is primarily driven by Thai AirAsia, the country’s largest budget carrier, whose hub is now at Don Mueang airport.
Chiang Mai airport expects 16 extra scheduled and charter flights for this year’s holiday, while Phuket airport will squeeze in eight additional flights.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand expects 150,000 to 180,000 Chinese tourists to travel to Thailand from Feb 9-20, up from 120,000 to 130,000 last year.
China became the main source of international tourist arrivals last year with a record 2.7 million, and the figure is expected to be 3.5 million this year.