THAI Smile Air, a Thai Airways light-premium sub-brand, is scheduled to begin first flights in July 2012.
The launch of a sub-brand responds to the high demand for more price-sensitive segment in short sectors. The new airline will service both domestic and international destinations.
"Think of it as a competitive hybrid between premium THAI flights and ultra cheap, low-cost airlines like Air Asia and Tiger Airways," said Woranate Laprabang, Managing Director of THAI Smile Air.
In its first year of operations, using Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport as its main hub, THAI Smile Air will replace the main brand in Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen, Chiang Rai, and Surat Thani.
The main target market for these initial in-country flights will be the young small and medium business travellers, local travellers and government agents who are looking for a relaxed, stylish atmosphere on board without the premium price.
THAI Smile Air light premium service will offer a complimentary meal and drink service, free passenger seat selections, faster check-in procedures, 15-20 kg baggage allowances, and the ability to accrue frequent flyer mileage on both THAI and the Star Alliance network.
Just like THAI, which was rated in 2011 as the world’s 5 th best airline by Skytrax Surveys, "our new sub-brand promises to give passengers high value for a good price," Woranate said.
By 2013, THAI Smile Air’s fleet of 11 brand new lean 174-seat Airbus A320 planes are expected to fly to neighbouring countries – India, China, and most ASEAN member states of Southeast Asia. Therefore, these regional destinations will be much more accessible, with relative comfort and ease.
Recruitment drives for a new cabin crew, scheduled for January 2012, will target young, active, and energetic girls with high level of service minded, who are willing to undergo an intensive three-month training program at the newly built THAI Flight Training Academy. Here they will learn skills in client service, in-flight safety, and language etiquette. Special attention will be given to ensure that all flight staff is adept at providing passengers with the "human touch", including, of course, the traditional Thai smile.
Innovative design plans are already underway for the aircraft logo, flight staff uniforms, and flight cabins.
Managing Director Woranate is confident that in-house competition with low-cost subsidiary Nok Air is not really an issue since Nok Air only flies domestically out of Don Muang airport, while THAI Smile Air passengers will be able to connect to international flights out of Suvarnabhumi Airport. Also, THAI Smile Air will fly to Khon Kaen and Chiang Rai, two destinations not covered by Nok Air.
Promotional campaigns will start in early 2012 on many Internet sites, including social network site Facebook, mobile phones, enabling travellers to make flight reservations with a click on the latest tech gadget.
Interested passengers should also keep a lookout for membership cards and discount coupons, also coming in early 2012, as the lift-off for this exciting new addition to the THAI gets closer to its inauguration flights in July 2012.