RAYONG – Qatar Airways is making U-tapao airport its next port of call, making it a Gulf airline that offers the most coverage of Thailand.
The fast-growing Middle East carrier will offer non-stop service, four flights a week, from the Qatari capital Doha to the Thai eastern coast starting on Jan 28 next year.
The Doha-U-tapao flight comes on the heels of its launch of Doha-Chiang Mai service, which is confirmed to commence on Dec 12 after some slight delays.
The Doha-U-tapao route will boost Qatar’s connections with Thailand to five direct routes, more than its Gulf rivals — Emirates and Etihad Airways — which both concentrate on serving Bangkok from their home bases in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively.
That underscores Qatar’s positive view of direct traffic potential to the Thai resort Pattaya, which is served by the Navy-operated U-tapao airport in Rayong.
Airline sources said Qatar primarily eyes traffic from Russia and Ukraine, which it connects from Doha.
Pattaya is one of the most popular holiday destinations for Russians, Ukrainians and former Russian republics, especially during the high season, running from November to March.
Dubai-based Emirates has long expressed interest in operating a regular flight to U-tapao, but Qatar has been the only Gulf carrier bold enough to establish a link.
Qatar will be the first five-star Middle East airline to offer flights to and from U-tapao, which is mostly served by low-cost carriers like AirAsia with flights to and from China.
Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways group chief executive, described Pattaya as one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations and said Thailand is continuing to grow in popularity with Qatar’s passengers.
Qatar will operate a Boeing 787 Dream-liner, with 22 seats in business class and 232 seats in economy class on the Doha-U-tapao flights.
Qatar Airways flies to three destinations in Thailand — 35 times a week to Bangkok, 14 times a week to Phuket and daily to Krabi commencing on Dec 1 this year.
From Dec 12, Qatar will also fly four times a week to Chiang Mai, which will take the airline’s weekly frequency to 60 flights a week.
The 20-year-old airline is adding new destinations to its growing network in 2017/18, including St Petersburg and Canberra.
By BOONSONG KOSITCHOTETHANA