In Thailand Nok means bird. “Premium low cost” domestic carrier Nokair after ten years of operation commands a healthy 27% chunk of the country’s domestic market and a healthy profit margin. Nok has not expanded internationally with the exception of a couple of routes.
This was due to change this year. Nok has joined with Singapore Airline’s low cost arm Scoot, to form low cost international carrier called imaginatively NokScoot with the slogan: Fly Awesome. Literally the name means: Bird leaves suddenly and quickly! This new venture is 49% is owned by Scoot and 51% owned by Nok. The carrier aims to link China, Japan and Korea to Bangkok’s Don Mueng airport.
Nokscoot obtained their air operator’s certificate from Thailand’s DCA on 30th October 2014. They began selling tickets for their first services which were scheduled to begin May 10th. The company will be starting with Boeing 777-200s inherited from Singapore Airlines.
In the meantime, a January 2015 International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) audit of Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) found a number of issues which the authority needs to fix. The audit reportedly gave Thailand’s air safety standards a rating of just 36% compared to Singapore’s 98.9%. The ICAO noted significant safety concerns and demanded the DCA develop a plan to fix them. This follows ICAO issued warnings on the Thai airline industry since 2009. For example, despite the number of airlines registered in Thailand increasing from 12 to 63 in a decade, the DCA has not grown its staff team and is severely stretched.
DCA’s first remediation plan submitted in March was rejected by the ICAO and has to be resubmitted by May. Other countries that have Thai registered airlines flying to or from them have become concerned including Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). The Bureau advised the DCA that it will not allow Thai registered airlines to increase their flights, or change routes to Japan. Korea and China have followed. Australia, the USA and the UK are monitoring.
The new airline is now giving refunds right through to October, 2015. No doubt there is some frantic hoping going on at NokScoot!
This situation is mirrored across many other countries in the developing world where technological support for aviation, crew training and legislative oversights are not keeping up with massive growth in air traffic. Interestingly, almost every major air accident since 2009 has involved an airline from the developing world (with the recent exception of Germanwings). This is an unacceptable situation which the world needs to remedy. Flying needs to continue to become safer for all countries not just First world nations.
Meantime, I am flying Nok (a little nervously) on Tuesday. This will be the fourth Thai registered airline I have flown. The others being Thai Air Asia (never again), Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways. Nok is one third owned by Thai Airways (who also have their own low cost subsidiary: Thai Smiles). Airlineratings give them a safety rating of 4/7. Skytrax rate them a 3 star airline.
I have flown and enjoyed Scoot before. They are the best low cost carrier I have flown. I gave them a score of 74%. They have been operating for three years and are making the transition from second hand 777s to new 787s. Airline ratings give them a safety score of 5/7. Skytrax says Scoot is a 3 star airline. Skytrax interviewees give the carrier a rating of 7 out of 10 which is good for a Low Cost carrier