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Thai flood impact on air travel limited

Thailand’s flood crisis deepened this week as floodwaters advanced into Bangkok, forcing authorities to shut down the capital city’s second-largest airport, but its impact on Korean travelers will likely remain limited, airline officials said Thursday.

Major Korean carriers have not seen delays or cancellations of flights due to floods and have not experienced noticeable drops in occupancy rates, officials said, although they have been closely following the Southeast Asian country’s worst natural disaster in decades, triggered by heavy monsoon rains in late July.

“We’re not having much trouble flying to Thailand,” a Korean Air spokesperson said. “Despite the closedown of the Don Muang Airport, which is used chiefly for domestic routes, the larger Suvarnabhumi Airport is operating as usual and the floods have little impact on other major tourist destinations like Chiang Mai and Phuket.”

Officials at Asiana Airlines also reported no major disruption, saying they are “watching the situation.”

Most flights connecting Seoul to Bangkok are more than 80 percent full, according to the industry.

Low-cost carriers such as Jin Air and T’way Air were jittery in particular because any suspension of their lucrative international trips could strike a blow to their business. Korean Air-affiliated Jin Air has been flying to the capital since December 2009 and T’way launched its maiden flight there early this month.

“We’re maintaining normal booking and occupancy rates as demand has been largely consistent,” a Jin Air official said, adding he has no current plans to cut services or adjust itineraries.

Thai Orient Airlines and Nok Air, two main airlines based at Don Muang, said Tuesday they would halt operations until Nov. 1 and redirect flights to Suvarnabhumi after the runways became inundated with floodwaters.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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