British Airways has pushed back the restart of its London – Bangkok flight to March 2023. Since late 2022, the London-based airline had been flagging an October 2022 restart of its Bangkok services, but last week BA pulled the plug on that timeline, pushing back the resumption of flights to the Thai capital by at least another six months.
March 2023 BA Bangkok restart date far from firm
Travel trade media report that a March 2023 resumption date is tentative at best. Notably, British Airways is yet to timetable in or start selling any flights to Bangkok beyond March on its own planes.
“We regularly keep our extensive global network under review, and we’ve taken the decision to extend the suspension of our Bangkok service. We’re in contact with affected customers to apologize, advise them of their consumer rights and offer them alternative options, including a refund or rebooking,” says a British Airways statement
The top alternative option from BA is a rerouting through Doha (DOH), where passengers connect to a Qatar Airways-operated flight bound for Bangkok. British Airways is under severe operational strain this summer, forcing it to cancel over 10,000 mostly short-haul flights. But the airline is also deploying its long-haul resources onto its most profitable routes, and leisure-orientated Bangkok was never one of those.
Bangkok is open to tourists once again. This writer is currently in the city. Tourists, including Europeans, are trickling back in, but even in well-worn tourist hotspots like Nana, foreigners aren’t exactly crowding the footpaths as they used to. Nearly 40 million international tourists visited Thailand in 2019. This year, the country will be lucky to hit 10 million. Most of the aircraft heading into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) are now local and regional carriers rather than long-haul international airlines like BA.
Bangkok is open for business again, but British Airways is staying away. Photo: Andrew Curran/Simple Flying
THAI Airways eyes an opportunity this winter
But where one door closes, another door opens. With British Airways effectively out of the Thailand market, flag carrier THAI Airways is reportedly eyeing laying on charter flights from the United Kingdom this northern winter. Those flights would be available to book by UK tour operators who had already or planned to book their Thailand-bound passengers on British Airways.
Thailand’s flag carrier is happy to pick up any British Airways passengers and seems to be turning the corner. It is now flying around 13,000 passengers a day. At the start of the year, THAI was flying around 2,000 passengers a day. More passengers means more revenue, particularly hard currency revenue from long-haul ticket sales. THAI is back flying to five destinations in mainland Europe as well as London Heathrow and two Scandinavian ports.
THAI Airways is eyeing stepping into the UK breach with BA effectively out of the market for the short to medium term. Photo: Getty Images
British Airways double down on Singapore
Meanwhile, British Airways’ Southeast Asian center of gravity is increasingly pivoting towards Singapore (SIN). As reported by Executive Traveller, BA is going double daily into Singapore from the end of October – right about when those Bangkok flights were meant to start. But unlike Bangkok, there’s plenty of premium passenger traffic into Singapore, which also acts as a mini oneworld hub.
British Airways will reboot its pre-pandemic BA11/12 Singapore service using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners over the northern winter. The other daily Singapore service, BA15/16, continues onto Sydney (SYD) and will be operated by Boeing 777-300 aircraft from October 30. The big 777-300s feature the latest BA first class and Club World cabins.
BA might be out of love with one of the world’s great cities and chasing the money into Singapore, but as THAI’s quick move attests, plenty of other carriers are prepared to step into the breach and start flying people back to Thailand.