Despite continuing political uncertainty in Thailand, Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air is reportedly due to confirm an order for “several” Boeing 737 aircraft at the Singapore Airshow.
NOK’s successful IPO last June raised almost $120 million, giving it money to spend on new hardware. Nok CEO Patee Sarasin said at the time he was “excited to expand overseas more,” and the airline indicated it was already looking at acquiring at least four more 737-800s in 2014. Nok has said it was aiming for 20 737 aircraft by the end of this year.
Although neither Boeing nor Nok was prepared to give a comment, one industry source said such an acquisition would be likely. “Such a move makes sense – Patee Sarasin has already said he wants more aircraft,” they noted.
The source added that although Boeing is the most likely manufacturer to sign a deal with Nok Air, there is a chance that ATR could be in on the deal. The airline is still running relatively old wet-lease 34-seat SAAB 340s, due for replacement soon. Additionally, the airline’s official fleet page lists only ATR 72-200 and 737-800 aircraft, indicating an early replacement date for the domestic service SAABs.
Nok has previously signaled its intent to move into the short/medium haul international market with new flight schedules now running to Myanmar and Laos. The possibility of Chinese and other regional international destinations could be likely if the airline takes more 737 aircraft, buoyed by increasing regional tourism travel numbers.
This is supported by the airlines’ latest domestic 737 routing, which started January 2014, offering two flights a day to holiday destination Krabi.
The addition of new aircraft could also increase utilization, according to Sarasin – new aircraft could offer up to 11.5 hr. per day in service compared to a much lower utilization for Nok’s other, older aircraft.