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Thailand's Low Cost Carriers

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Excerpts from the Center for Aviation


Thailand has six low cost airlines operating a combined fleet of 136 aircraft, according the CAPA Fleet Database. LCCs account for 45% of Thailand’s total commercial aircraft fleet and over 60% of the narrowbody fleet.


Thailand’s LCC sector has grown rapidly since the first two LCCs, Nok Air and Thai AirAsia, launched in 2004. Growth has particularly accelerated over the past five years, driven partially by the late 2013 launch and rapid expansion of Thai Lion Air.


Five years ago, in May-2013, there were only 42 LCC aircraft based in Thailand, including 28 at Thai AirAsia and 14 at Nok Air. Over the past five years the LCC fleet has more than tripled in size, and the total commercial fleet has increased by 50%.



  • Thailand's LCC fleet has more than tripled in size over the past five years, from 42 to 136 aircraft.
  • Four LCCs have launched in Thailand over the past five years.
  • There are now six LCCs operating in Thailand, three of which have widebody aircraft.
  • Thai AirAsia is the market leader and has more than doubled its fleet over the past five years, from 28 aircraft to 59 aircraft.

Thailand’s total commercial passenger aircraft fleet has expanded by 104 aircraft over the past five years, according to the CAPA Fleet Database. The LCC fleet has expanded by 94 aircraft while the full service airlines fleet has grown by only 10 aircraft.


Thai Lionbecomes Thailand’s second largest LCC


Thai Lion recently overtook Nok in terms of both fleet size and seat capacity. Thai AirAsia remains the market leader by a wide margin, and is about double the size of Thai Lion (both in terms of fleet size and seat capacity).


Thai VietJet became Thailand’s fourth short haul LCC in 2016, when it launched scheduled services. Thai VietJet initially began operations in late 2014 with charters but has not expanded rapidly and is a relatively insignificant player, accounting for only 4% of Thailand’s total LCC fleet.


In 4Q2017 Thai Lion became Thailand’s third LCC widebody operator, along with Thai AirAsia X and NokScoot. Thai AirAsia X launched in 2014 and NokScoot in 2015. Both currently only operate widebody aircraft, although later this year NokScoot plans to start operating 737s, which will be used to operate alongside 777s in the fast expanding Thailand-China market.


Thailand is now the only country with three long haul LCCs. However, Thailand’s LCC widebody fleet is relatively small, with just 15 aircraft currently in operation. The LCC turboprop fleet is also very small as there is only one operator, Nok, with 10 aircraft.


All of Thailand’s LCC have expanded rapidly


Thai Lion has grown the fastest of Thailand’s LCCs, adding 30 aircraft since launching with an initial fleet of two aircraft in Dec-2013.


Nok more than doubled its fleet in just three years, from 2013 to 2016, but has cut its fleet slightly over the past year as part of a restructuring aimed at returning to profitability. Nok currently operates 28 aircraft, which still represents growth of 75%, 12 aircraft, since Thai Lion launched in Dec-2013.


When Thai Lion launched in early Dec-2013, Nok had 16 aircraft and Thai AirAsia had 34 aircraft. Thai AirAsia now has 59 aircraft, representing growth of 25 aircraft, or 74%, since Thai Lion launched.


Thai AirAsia X, NokScoot and Thai VietJet are still relatively small, but all 17 of their aircraft are represented in the five-year growth figures as they are all less than four years old.


LCCs drive rapid growth in Thailand’s domestic market


The tripling of Thailand’s LCC fleet in five years has, not surprisingly, led to a similar increase in LCC capacity.


Domestic LCC seats in Thailand have more than tripled, from approximately 11 million in 2012 to 33 million in 2017, according to CAPA and OAG data. LCCs currently account for approximately 70% of domestic seat capacity in Thailand, compared to slightly less than 50% five years ago.


The total domestic market has more than doubled over the past five years, driven by a combination of economic growth, an expanding middle class and rapid LCC expansion. Average domestic fares plummeted as Thai Lion became the third LCC competitor on trunk routes,

stimulating demand and persuading a segment of the population to trade bus and train journeys for air travel.


Thailand annual LCC seat capacity: 2008 to 2017



There are currently 25 foreign LCCs serving Thailand, accounting for nearly 40% of the total international LCC seat capacity. Malaysia’s AirAsia is the largest foreign LCC, with a more than 7% share of international LCC seat capacity. Indonesia AirAsia also has a 2% share of international seat capacity in Thailand, giving the AirAsia/AirAsia X Group approximately a 45% share of total LCC international seat capacity from Thailand.   


Don Mueang’s LCC penetration rate in 2017 was 97%. The LCC penetration rate was slightly less than 10% at Suvarnabhumi, which is used by most foreign LCCs and nearly all full service airlines serving Bangkok. All of Thailand’s local LCCs are based at Don Mueang except Thai VietJet, which is based at Suvarnabhumi.


Phuket had an LCC penetration rate of 44% in 2017, Chiang Mai 64%, Chiang Rai 76% and Hat Yai 84%, based on AOT data. Chiang Rai and Hat Yai are relatively small airports (less than 5 million annual passengers). Chiang Mai handled 10 million passengers in 2017, Phuket 17 million and Suvarnabhumi 61 million.


Continues with chart


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