Seat Capacity on Flights to Thailand Affected by World Cup

The 2022 World Cup in Qatar has impacted seating capacity in Thailand during the peak season as many airlines turn to routes that cater to football fans’ demand.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT)’s latest figures showed that the number of scheduled flights to Thailand from October to March has increased by 74.1% compared to the summer schedule this year.

However, the figure remained 67.6% lower than in the same period before the pandemic.

According to the deputy governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) for Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, the major airlines in the Middle East dedicate their fleets to routes catering to football enthusiasts during the World Cup, set to start next month.

Mr. Siripakorn said that the host country, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), considered a regional key aviation hub, would see more active air traffic. Therefore, both must prepare additional flights to ensure a sufficient supply for the quadrennial tournament.

Consequently, Qatar Airways did not add flights to Thailand for the peak season, the TAT’s deputy governor said, adding that the same could happen with Emirates.

The CAAT revealed that the number of flights from Qatar to Thailand had dropped to 727 from October to March from 984 during the summer. During the same period, flights from the United Arab Emirates decreased slightly from 1,209 to 1,113.

Latest reports also showed that airfares for direct flights from the Middle East to Thailand had risen from 15,000-20,000 before Covid-19 to 25,000-30,000 baht.

Mr. Siripakorn said long-haul markets from Europe would be affected as they still rely on connecting flights in the Middle East due to airlines being unable to speed up expansion plans and labor shortages.

However, some routes from Europe have begun to expand steadily. France, for example, has recovered 80% of 2019 levels in terms of seating capacity.

The average price for direct flights between Paris and Bangkok increased from 30,000-40,000 baht before the pandemic to 40,000-50,000 baht.

Mr. Siripakorn said the TAT should work closely with airlines that have not resumed flights to the Thai capital, including British Airways, which announced it would suspend the Bangkok route until 2023.

In addition, the agency must convince airlines that confirmed their winter schedule to extend their services throughout the year, he added.

According to Mr. Siripakorn, the TAT also plans to persuade airlines in Asia to connect to more European cities by flying to Bangkok before connecting to Taipei.