Low-cost carriers (LCCs) are playing a greater role in Thailand’s airline industry, with almost one-third of overall aircraft movements and passenger throughput coming from them in the year to September.

LCCs — comprising 22 international carriers and three registered in Thailand — carried 26.6 million passengers through six major Thai airports, representing 30.9% of 86.1 million passengers in the period.

In terms of aircraft movements, the no-frills carriers recorded 184,987 take-offs and landings, constituting 33.1% of 559,423 total aircraft movements, reported the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT).

Fiscal year 2013 also saw LCCs’ passenger volumes leap 30.8% from the previous year of 20.3 million. Likewise, LCC aircraft movements rose by 21.1% over 152,800 a year ago.

Discount airlines drove overall traffic growth at AoT-operated airports including Suvarnabhumi in the previous fiscal year, which saw overall passengers rise by 20.4% from 71.5 million in fiscal 2012.

The bulk of all budget airline traffic in the year was through Don Mueang airport, with 14.8 million passengers and 105,618 take-offs and landings, up by 485% and 452%, respectively.

Suvarnabhumi, one of Southeast Asia’s busiest airports, came second with a record of 3.2 million passengers and 20,135 aircraft movements, down by 69.8% and 74.6%, respectively, due to the relocation of two major LCCs — AirAsia and Nok Air — to Don Mueang from Suvarnabhumi.

The country’s LCC traffic was dominated by AirAsia Group and its Thai offshoot, Thai AirAsia.

At least four new players are expected to join the highly competitive LCC market next year — Thai VietJetAir; Thai AirAsia X; NokScoot, a long-haul joint venture between two low-cost carriers; and Thai Lion Air, which took to the skies this month but plans to consolidate its position with an aggressive network plan and expedited fleet enlargement.

Thailand’s growing tourism industry is expected to continue to attract additional international LCCs at the expense of full-service carriers.