22nd May 2023
In a significant boost to Thailand's domestic travel industry, Bangkok Airways has revealed plans to restart flights to Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand, restoring crucial air connectivity to this picturesque region and aiding its ailing tourism sector.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the airline intends to launch thrice-weekly flights from Bangkok to Mae Hong Son via Lampang starting August 2, 2023. This decision comes after the cessation of Nok Air's operations on the same route, which left Mae Hong Son Airport — the gateway to the famous backpacking town of Pai — without commercial air service.
Pai, known for its natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere, has traditionally been a significant draw for international and domestic travellers. The re-establishment of air links to the town could give a considerable boost to local businesses and the region's economy.
Mae Hong Son Airport has faced challenging times since Nok Air discontinued the Don Mueang – Mae Hong Son route, a decision driven by a change in the airline's fleet. Nok Air replaced its 86-seat Q400 aircraft with larger Boeing 787-800 jets that could accommodate 189 passengers. However, despite the possibility of larger aircraft landing at the airport, the lack of demand for the extra seating capacity made these larger aircraft financially unviable for this route.
Chanakhet Boonyakhan, the Senior President of the Mae Hong Son Chamber of Commerce, weighed in on the issue, suggesting that aircraft with around 70 seats would be more appropriate for the Mae Hong Son route. Heeding this advice, Bangkok Airways is set to employ its ATR-72 propeller planes, each accommodating around 70 passengers, on this route.
The airline's proposed route will also include a stop in Lampang, a city rich in history and culture, known for its horse-drawn carriages and Lanna-style temples. Bangkok Airways is currently authorised to fly between Bangkok and Lampang and is securing permission to extend the route to Mae Hong Son.
In another development, Bangkok Airways is contemplating introducing a route from Bangkok to Phrae province, also in northern Thailand. Before the pandemic, the airline's Phrae – Don Mueang route was highly popular, with two daily flights achieving an average occupancy of 80%.
The revitalisation of these routes by Bangkok Airways promises the resurgence of tourism in the region and access to the unparalleled beauty and culture of northern Thailand that travellers have greatly missed.