Thai Airways shelves Brisbane, Perth flights; plans Melbourne return

Thailand’s flag carrier has pulled all Queensland and WA flights from its schedules, and made all Brisbane-based staff redundant.

By Chris Chamberlin, December 9 2020
Thai Airways shelves Brisbane, Perth flights; plans Melbourne return
Executive Traveller exclusive

Star Alliance member Thai Airways is shrinking its Australian route network – at least, for now – with all flights to Brisbane and Perth withdrawn from sale over the coming year.

The airline’s Brisbane office will also close on December 18 2020, with all staff there made redundant.

Flights to Brisbane and Perth, as well as Melbourne, “are suspended until March 27 2021,” a Thai Airways spokesperson advised Executive Traveller.

“Scheduled beyond that have not yet been confirmed.”

However, flights between Melbourne and Bangkok have already returned to sale for travel from March 28 2021, with Thai Airways scheduling a daily Airbus A350 service:

The same cannot be said for Brisbane and Perth, for which no Thai Airways flights are loaded for sale through to late 2021, being as far forward as the airline sells tickets on its network.

Sydney-Bangkok flights set to continue

When it comes to Sydney, Thai Airways expects to operate a weekly flight to Bangkok between January and March 2021.

Daily Sydney-Bangkok services are then scheduled from March 28.

Even so, the airline’s website warns against making flight bookings right now, noting that prompt refunds should not be expected if flights are cancelled.

A Thai Airways spokesperson advised Executive Traveller that “we expect there will be some finalisation of the 2021 schedules once the court process in Thailand is finalised in Q1 2021, and (when) international borders are reopened.”

Earlier this year, the airline had resorted to court protections under Thailand’s Bankruptcy Act to help secure its future – a move that was followed last month by all of Thai's Boeing 747s being put up for sale.

Australia’s international travel restrictions have also now been extended a third time, continuing until at least March 17 2021.

Thai Airways' Australian network

Prior to COVID-19, Thai Airways offered regular flights to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Its Sydney route was home to those Boeing 747s, which came with not only the feted upper deck for business class passengers, but also the airline’s refreshed first class suites down in the jumbo’s nose.

Thai Airways' Boeing 747 first class suites were spacious, and somewhat private.
Thai Airways' Boeing 747 first class suites were spacious, and somewhat private.

Without the Boeing 747 in its fleet, Thai’s Sydney flights are currently scheduled with Airbus A350s and Boeing 777-300s going forward, both of which top out at business class.

Until March 2020, Sydney-Bangkok was also served daily by Qantas.

Melbourne-Bangkok had an alternative in Jetstar, and Brisbane had Thai AirAsia, albeit with flights into Bangkok's secondary Don Mueang airport, rather than the city's Suvarnabhumi hub.

Perth-Bangkok was a monopoly for Thai Airways, and was also Perth's eighth-busiest international route in 2018.

Also read: Thai Airways opens its flight simulators to the public

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 323

They need to get there house in order, as they (TG) were in trouble before covid come along.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

Yes, but not as much trouble as now. You do realize that most airlines, including those with stellar track records pre-Covid are now in trouble. Therefore, let's focus on the now because it's the current lockdowns, quarantines and border closures that are destroying businesses and especially airlines and anything travel related.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

It is good that most of that list except for the very necessary quarantines are behind us here in Australia unlike Europe and North America.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 307

May well be the norm for many airlines for the foreseeable future, a return to the main points of SYD, MEL only.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 227

Not the first airline and definitely won't be the last airline to end service to Brisbane and Perth. Businesses don't want to deal with the unpredictable and erratic behaviour of the QLD and WA state governments.

I feel sorry for the Brisbane staff and hope they can find alternative employment.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1263

KW I presume you include SA and Tassie in that or is it just Labor states who have kept the bug under control which are in your sights.

Oh, stop with the border politics argument over QLD and WA. That makes no sense. Why would an international airline's decision have anything to do with state border closures to other Australian states? All states currently have an arrivals cap, but if it had anything to do with that, this is a federal matter.

The fact that Thai's BNE base is closing for good is more reflective that the airline is looking at the shape of international travel once international restrictions lift. When demand starts to rebuild it'll be led by the biggest markets, the biggest states, ie SYD and MEL. Thai clearly sees a long recovery ahead. Even PER-BKK which was as this article says a very popular route, will be suffering due to lack of travel between those cities, even next year because the number of international students will have plummeted without 2020 intake and probably no 2021 intake.

Also as Thai says, current court issues over finances are impacting all this, so it's simply making forward decisions on the biggest routes.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 367

If it had been pre-cobid, I would've cursed the decision. But now, it doesn't bother me at all since we can't travel. There is no difference whether no airlines fly to BNE or 100 airlines open a new route to BNE. It's all irrelevant since we can't travel!

If we are allowed to travel again, I don't mind making the effort to transit in SYD or MEL. I will be very grateful in fact, as I finally get to travel again! (Which is a dream that seemed so far away.... 😭)

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

Coincidentally, before I read this article I was playing around with the THAI Airways timetable, and noticed this too. Normal schedules loaded for flights to all THAI destinations starting March 28, 2021, but with the proviso that some destinations including Perth and Brisbane are missing. This could be due to the airline's bankruptcy proceedings which may result in a smaller, leaner airline, at least at the beginning, much in the same way as Malaysia Airlines became a much smaller airline after the twin 2014 flight disaster fiasco and subsequent restructuring.

Given Thai Air Asia chose Brisbane as it's first port of call in Australia and only offered a flight back around 2018 if memory serves me correctly, I can't see THAI not returning to Brisbane eventually, once all restrictions are removed of course.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

16 May 2011

Total posts 117

Sadly a few international airlines have decided to pull the plug on Brisbane, Etihad, Royal Brunei, Thai AirAsia X and now Thai joins the list. Korean Air has also closed its Brisbane offices and let go all it's staff, Malaysia Airlines could join also. But there is alot of uncertainty at the moment so who knows what might happen in 6 months time.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

That's true Andy. Still, as I mentioned, it was only in 2018 that Thai Air Asia started serving Brisbane, not Sydney, Melbourne or Perth, but Brisbane as their first destination in Australia. Therefore, I believe that once things start getting back to normal, Brisbane will once again be served by both airlines, but of course, this could be some time away (likely not before 2022 or even 2023).

I think Malaysia Airlines pulled the plug on Brisbane several years back, before returning a year or two before Covid hit. Of course they might make the decision to once again leave Brisbane.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 351

i hope they can make a decision to offer adelaide services.overnight bkk/adl and daylight on the return.there was talk of such a thing way back in 1990 but nothing came of it.instead we were subjected to either adelaide via melbourne to bangkok on british airways.adelaide/sydney on ansett or australian and then connecting onto qantas/ba or thai to bangkok or singapore airlines via singapore in those days and in more recent years 100% qantas via sydney.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

That's interesting, and could become a possibility once the current situation normalizes and THAI is better managed (which I think is a strong possibility given it's no longer majority owned by the government and as part of their bankruptcy procedures a lot of staff have been let go).

Many years back THAI used to serve Cairns. Therefore, with it's much larger population, including a healthy overseas student population studying at it's numerous universities and as a tourist destination for wealthy Asian visitors, it is not inconceivable that an Adelaide service could begin. AFAIK, Adelaide and Bangkok have never been linked with a direct flight (though interestingly, Darwin has been) therefore there is a possibility of making it work, once the market conditions are right (probably from 2022 onward).

In recent years it was mostly Singapore Airlines via SIN to Bangkok, or Qantas via SYD or Jetstar via MEL. Or any domestic carrier to Per, Syd or Mel and then THAI to BKK. Personally, I would have chosen Singapore Airlines as it's the fastest option. A direct service would of course be even more attractive.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2019

Total posts 16

It doesn't matter what the THAI flight schedules look like for MEL-BKK or SYD-BKK as outside of those holding certain types of non-immigrant visas e.g. business/employment, volunteers/NGOs, retirement, spouse, you won't be able to visit Thailand without undertaking 14 days alternative state quarantine in a hotel at your own expense (currently 120 hotels offering packages ranging from 33,000THB to 220,000THB for 14 days), plus purchase of COVID health insurance (to cover up to USD100,000) plus a 90 day Special Tourist Visa (AUD120).  Until these requirements change seat availability will be wide open on TG to BKK!

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

True, but this could potentially change for Aussies (in addition to nationals of 5 other countries including China, Taiwan, New Zealand and Vietnam) if they're allowed to quarantine for 10 days as has been hinted at starting soon OR even enter into a quarantine free "travel bubble". Thailand has mulled the possibility of allowing Chinese nationals from select cities in without quarantine as early as late January/early February, right in time for the Chinese New Year to boost both the tourism and business sectors.

At this stage, the earliest mass tourism could begin (indicating that quarantines might be dropped) is late March, based both off of recent articles and THAI's scheduling after March 27, 2021.

Also, just today there was an article in the Bangkok Post about bringing back visa waivers (special long-term tourist visa holders and some 60-day tourist visa holders are already being allowed in). This indicates tourism is starting to come back on track. Of course, the current quarantine requirements will deter many for the time being.

As always, this could change 50 times between now and then, but that's no different to Australia.

Of course, don't forget that it's not just heading for Thailand that is a little bureaucratic and expensive, there's also the 2-week quarantine costing at least A$3000 on the way back into Australia, the limited number of flights and seat restrictions. Also, Aussies can't leave Australia until March 18, 2021, without seeking permission from the government.

I can see the possibility of a quarantine-free travel bubble between Australia and Thailand emerging in a few months from now, if things continue on the right track.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 385

I am sure things will be different when this Pandemic is over but it’s not just the travel restrictions by the government to Australian residents that limits the pax traffic on Thai Air but also the Special Tourist Visa the Thai government has implemented to allow only high value big spending foreigners with deep pockets to enter the country with minimum stay period of 3 months.

Now they appeared to change some of the requirements including the minimum stay period given that to date there is less than 1000 entered on that visa over 2 months but it certainly misread how much the high end travellers are willing to jump through hoops to get to BKK and other resort destinations. Doesn’t help with having the current protests in BKK either.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 332

Oh I don't think you have to worry about any of that. Normal tourist visas are already being issued by some consulates and the Special Tourist Visa is only going to be issued until Sep 30, 2021 I believe unless they extend the validity or it turns into some sort of long-term option.

Thailand could be open and back to a semblance of normality long before Australia is. Everyone pretty much has to jump through "hoops" to travel to many parts of the world at the moment, but once the current restrictions pass, things will be mostly back to normal fairly soon. At least Thailand is offering a tourist visa right now, unlike any of it's neighbors (except for Singapore, which offers certain nationalities visa-free entry on a unilateral basis).

The protests will fizzle out probably long before mass tourism resumes and the vast majority of tourists are unlikely to care about or be impacted by them, just like in previous years. Thailand always bounced back from such events including the 2008 airport protest, the 2010 red shirt street battles and torching of the then World Trade Center (now Central World) and the 2013-14 Bangkok shutdown protests.


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