The aviation business in the ASEAN region is likely to expand significantly once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) goes into full effect. The Thai aviation industry is preparing to meet growing demand at home and abroad when the AEC comes into existence in 2015.
Thailand is striving to become an aviation hub in this region. At the same time, it also aims to be a regional aircraft service and maintenance center.
The establishment of the ASEAN Single Aviation Market upon the arrival of the AEC is a challenge for Thailand, which has an advantage in terms of geographical location. Thailand has aviation links with various countries worldwide. It shares borders with four ASEAN countries, namely Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar. In 2012, Suvarnabhumi, the primary international airport in Thailand, was the second busiest airport in ASEAN after Indonesia’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
It is expected that the number of flights passing through both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports will grow by 16 percent in 2013. The growth rate is likely to be 10 percent in 2014 and 11 percent in 2015.
The coming of AEC will lead to the opening of numerous new airlines and aviation routes. More tourist arrivals within the region will be seen, together with the growth in the aviation business. As a result, pilots will be in great demand, and many airlines will try to recruit experienced pilots. According to the Thai Flight Training Academy, operated by Thai Airways International, Thailand should produce at least 780 pilots by 2015 in preparation for the AEC. The number will initially be adequate to cope with the growing demand, but by 2018, around 7,800 pilots will be needed.
The Civil Aviation Training Center, under the Ministry of Transport, aims to produce more graduates for the aviation industry. About 1,000 student pilots graduate from this center each year. The center has also trained a number of people in aircraft maintenance
The Ministry of Transport has improved facilities and pushed for curriculum development in order to accommodate the expected growing number of students. It believes that Thailand will be in a good position to supply its pilots to other ASEAN countries, as well.
Thailand’s aircraft maintenance business has grown steadily. It was valued at 19.1 billion baht in 2012, accounting for an increase of 20 percent over 2011. This business is expected to grow further as the launch of the AEC approaches. In particular, “CLMV” countries, comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, will become an important market for Thailand’s aircraft maintenance business. Thailand also provides other functions, including air transport services, ground-based infrastructure, supply chain activities, and other related business areas.
With its strength in terms of aviation connectivity in ASEAN, Thailand has great potential to attract various regional airlines to its aircraft maintenance services.