SEOUL, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Thai Vietjet, a franchise of Vietnamese budget carrier Vietjet Aviation JSC, plans to more than double the size of its Thailand-based fleet over the next year as part of a longer-term expansion plan, a Vietjet executive said on Friday.
“We plan to increase our fleet size by adding 10 aircraft every year. That means, at the end of next year, Thai Vietjet will have a total of 17 aircraft,” Vietjet Vice President Nguyen Thi Thuy Bihn told Reuters in an interview in Seoul.
Thai Vietjet is currently operating 6 Airbus SE A320 family narrowbody jets, with another due to arrive next month.
The expansion comes at a time of intense competition in Thailand’s budget market with AirAsia Group Bhd franchise Thai AirAsia and Nok Airlines Pcl reporting losses in the quarter ended June 30 on higher fuel prices.
Nguyen did not elaborate on which routes the 10 jets to be added would operate.
Thai Vietjet will kick off two new routes connecting Bangkok and Danang in Vietnam and Taichung in Taiwan this year, according to the airline.
The Thai airline is the first plank of Vietjet’s strategy of forming joint ventures in Asian countries to expand its brand and reach, as AirAsia and Indonesia’s Lion Air already have done.
At the Farnborough Airshow in July, Vietjet signed two provisional orders with Boeing Co and Airbus to purchase 100 Boeing 737 MAX and 50 A321neo narrowbody jets in deals worth $13 billion and $6.5 billion at list prices, respectively.
However, Vietjet has not yet finalised the deals with Boeing and Airbus, Nguyen said.
Vietjet, Vietnam’s biggest private airline, currently operates 60 jets with more than 385 flights daily between Vietnam and countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia. (Reporting by Heekyong Yang in SEOUL, additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng in BANGKOK; Editing by Jamie Freed and Gopakumar Warrier)