Druk Air, Bhutan’s National airline says that while chances of domestic airfares coming down are slim, more expensive international airfare hikes in 2012 are unlikely.
“Despite the fact that the entire industry is reeling under the increased costs, due to aviation fuel, Druk Air has consciously considered that increasing fares won’t be given topmost priority,” the airline’s commercial manager, Tshering Penjor, said.
While the cost of aviation fuel continues to increase, which translates to higher operating costs for the airline, Druk Air has been able to bear increases in costs due to higher passenger traffic. “We’re fortunate that given the captive market growing annually around 12-15 % has enabled us to sustain and mitigate the increased operating costs,” Tshering Penjor said.
Passenger traffic for the airline grew by around 14 %, more than it projected in 2011, pointed out Tshering Penjor. Most of this growth occurred on its Bangkok, Thailand sector. He attributed the higher growth marketing efforts abroad by the Tourism Council of Bhutan and other agencies, such as online tour company Make My Trip in India.
For 2012, the airline is expecting another 10-12 % passenger traffic growth. For instance, Druk Air has already inserted an additional 25 flights for March – April to handle increased traffic during the Paro tshechu. Last year, the airline had to insert only one additional flight for the same period. “Our biggest challenge has been addressing demand for Paro tshechu, when the expectations of all travelers are generally focused around arriving 1 – 2 days before, and need to depart 1 – 2 days after, the tshechu.”
In September, the airline hopes to have in its possession a third airbus jet. This will not only allow two flights a week each to the new destinations of Singapore and Mumbai, India, but also additional capacity on existing routes. Druk Air plans to fly to Bangkok, Thailand, eight times a week, daily to New Delhi and Kolkata in India, and Kathmandu, Nepal. The airline had initially hoped to introduce its new sectors and additionally capacity by April, but was not able to lease a third airbus aircraft in time.
Bhutan Airlines is also looking to commence international operations by the third quarter of this year. The private airline’s CEO, David Young, said that the company has not yet leased an aircraft for its international operations, and is still in discussions with possible leasers. Once an aircraft has been obtained, a final date for launch of international flights will be made, he said. Destinations the private airline plan to fly to are Bangkok and New Delhi. David Young said that airfares would be finalized, once an aircraft has been leased.