Thailand is expecting a significant increase in the number of Chinese tourists in May, as Chinese airlines plan to operate more flights to the country.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), Chinese airlines have requested to increase their flights to Thailand from 100 per week to 430 per week starting on June 1.

This is a positive sign for the Thai tourism industry, which has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. China is Thailand’s largest source of foreign visitors, accounting for about 28% of the 39 millions arrivals in 2019. However, due to travel restrictions and border closures, the number of Chinese tourists dropped by 83% in 2020.

430 flights per week

The CAAT director Suthipong Kongpool said that his office recently met with Chinese airlines to discuss their request for more flights for the summer schedule and it was initially agreed that the number would rise to 430 a week. He said that international flights are on the rise again, especially from China, but the office can so far grant only 10%-20% of requests due to the limited capacity of Suvarnabhumi airport.

The CAAT office must take ground service handling capacity into consideration as, according to the director, there have been complaints about delays in passenger servicing time. This is because the airport’s ground handling operators, THAI Ground (TG) and Bangkok Flight Services (BFS), can accommodate only 40% of the previous capacity due to shortages of staff and equipment.

However, Airports of Thailand (AoT), which oversees Suvarnabhumi airport, has temporarily hired Airports of Thailand Ground Aviation Services (AOTGA) and Pattaya Aviation Co to provide ground services pending the selection of a third operator.

Mr Suthipong said that the flight increase from China marks a positive sign for the aviation industry, and the number of Chinese visitors will soon reach pre-Covid levels. According to the CAAT, a total of 24 Chinese airlines operate flights between the two countries.

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