Domestic air services in Thailand axe now operated by Thai Airways International (THAI) (there is no longer a separate Thai Airways for domestic flights) and cover 23 airports throughout Thailand. On certain southern routes, domestic flights through Hat Yai continue on to Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bandar Sen Begawan.
THAI operate Boeing 737s on all their main domestic routes, but they also have Avro 748s on some smaller routes and to the more remote locations, particularly in the north and northeast, there are small Shorts 330s and 360s. Some of the fares to these remote locations are subsidized.
The accompanying chart shows some of the fares on more popular routes. Where routes are operated by 737s and by Avro 748s or Shorts 330s and 360s the 737 fares will be higher. Note that through fares are generally less than the combination fares - Chiang Rai to Bangkok, for example, is less than the addition of Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai and Chiang Mai to Bangkok fares. This does not always apply to international fares however. It's much cheaper to fly from Bangkok to Penang via Phuket or Hat Yai than direct, for example.
THAI no longer has a run between Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani although there are fights between Korat and Khon Kaen.
In early 1986, a privately owned domestic airline began operations in indirect competition with THAI. The newcomer was Bangkok Airways and they had four daily flights along the Bangkok to Korat and Bangkok to Surin routes, along with occasional flights between Bangkok and Krabi. Eventually, they had plans to fly between Bangkok and Koh Samui when the Koh Samui Airport was completed. Within a year, however, all Bangkok Airways flights were suspended due to political friction with THAI, the government carrier. Then in January 1989 Sahakol Air, owners of Bangkok Airways, announced it would resume flights in April of that year, this time from Bangkok to Koh Samui, from Koh Samui to Phuket and Hat Yai, and from Bangkok to Ranong and Krabi routes. The company has as yet to decide whether to resume service to the northeast. Check with any travel agent in Bangkok to see if this venture is off the ground.
Bangkok Airways fares are competitive with THAI's but the company is small and it remains to be seen whether or not it will survive to become a serious contender. At the moment it's like Mekong and Hong Thong whisky, each concentrating on a different share of the market.
The Koh Samui Airport is privately owned by a group of Thai investors who are mostly medical doctors, financiers and retired military. They may allow landing rights for charter flights from Malaysia and Singapore in addition to domestic traffic.
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