Indonesia’s Lion Air is moving ahead with plans to launch a new Thailand-based low-cost carrier, according to local media reports.
Citing unnamed sources said to be familiar with the matter, the Bangkok Post reported that Lion has already started recruiting pilots, flight attendants and ground crew for the new airline, which is expected to be called Thai Lion Air.
While a firm launch date was not confirmed, the report suggested that Thai Lion Air will initially operate a fleet of six single-aisle Boeing 737-800s based at Bangkok’s second airport, Don Mueang – the home base of Thai AirAsia and Nok Air, the low-cost carrier partially owned by Thai Airways.
The director-general of Thailand’s Civil Aviation Department, Woradej Harnprasert, was reported to have confirmed the plan, but added that Lion had not yet applied for its air operator’s certificate, which would allow it to start operating in Thailand.
Any airline would have to be formed in joint venture with a Thai company, although the identity of the local investor has not been revealed.
A move into Thailand would suit Lion Air’s regional expansion strategy. Having created a new Malaysian subsidiary earlier this year, Malindo Airways, the Indonesian company’s commercial director, Edward Sirait, said recently that the company is eying opportunities in other ASEAN countries, including Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.
The company certainly needs to expand quickly; it is awaiting the delivery of more than 530 new aircraft, following recent record orders placed with Boeing and Airbus.