Bangkok Airways intends to resume international flights for the first time in 16 months to aid Thailand’s attempts to boost inbound tourism.
Flights between Samui International (USM) and Singapore (SIN) will resume on August 1, beginning operating three times per week on Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The service will be provided by Airbus A319 aircraft.
The route will be the Bangkok-based carrier’s first foreign flight since the COVID-19 crisis stopped many of the world’s air services in March 2020. Prior to the epidemic, the airline flew 20 foreign routes to Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Vietnam, among other places.
“The Samui-Singapore route is expected to restore confidence in Thailand’s tourism. We have guaranteed both Samui and Singapore that robust measures are in place to ensure secure travel between the two cities,” Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said.
Flight PG961 departs Samui at 3:05 p.m. and arrives in Singapore at 6 p.m. Flight PG962 departs SIN at 7:30 p.m. and arrives in USM at 8.35 p.m.
The resumption of international flights from Ko Samui is part of a policy to allow fully vaccinated foreign visitors to enter Thailand without quarantine. The island of Phuket was the first to reopen under the scheme on July 1, followed by Ko Samui and the nearby islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Tao on July 15.
This project does not need quarantine, merely testing, but travelers must stay on the islands for 14 nights before they can travel elsewhere in the country. More popular leisure spots, such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok, are scheduled to open gradually in the following months.
The pandemic has had a significant impact on Thailand’s tourist business, with the latest numbers issued by the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports revealing that there were just 5,694 visitor arrivals in June 2021, a 99.8 percent decrease from the same month two years earlier.
The move comes despite a record number of coronavirus cases being reported for the second day in a row on July 26. In Thailand, there were 15,376 new cases and 87 new deaths as the Delta variety spreads across the Southeast Asian country.
Thailand had managed to limit COVID-19 for much of 2020, but the recent dramatic increase in the number of illnesses has put a burden on the country’s healthcare system. So yet, only 5.6 percent of the country’s 66 million people have received full vaccinations.
Many Thai airlines have reduced domestic flights significantly in order to assist stem the spread of the virus. According to the OAG Scheduled Analyzer, there are 101,779 domestic weekly departure tickets available in Thailand this week (w/c July 26, 2021), down from around 285,000 at the end of June.
Meanwhile, as Bangkok Airways prepares to resume its USM-SIN service, Singapore’s government wants to enable quarantine-free travel for persons who have had full COVID-19 vaccinations beginning in September. On July 26, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong stated that the city-state would examine existing measures in early August.