A new wave of COVID-19 hitting southeast Asia has prompted the suspension of most domestic flights in the Kingdom of Thailand. Vietnam is also restricting domestic flights.
Thailand Restricts Domestic Flights
In Thailand, less than 5% of residents are fully vaccinated. With the number of countrywide cases now exceeding 10,000 per day, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has restricted airlines from serving “dark red” COVID-19 hot zones. So called “dark red” zones are regions in which the daily new COVID-19 case count rises above 100.
That now includes:
- Nakhon Pathom
- Pathum Thani
- Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
- Samut Prakan
- Samut Sakhon
Flights that do remain will be limited to 50% capacity.
There are exceptions to this flight ban, including:
- Cargo flights
- Vaccinated international traveler programs, including:
- Phuket Sandbox
- Samui Plus
- Emergency landings
- Technical stops with no passenger disembarkation permitted
The Samui Plus program involves vaccinated travelers arriving in Bangkok and transiting on “sealed” flights to Koh Samui (USM). While those flights will continue to operate, the number of booked hotel rooms is trending downward, with alarming signs for autumn.
The Phuket Sandbox program involves international flights directly to Phuket (HKT), currently a trio of Thai Airways flights and flights from Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and Qatar Airways.
Beyond those exceptions, the new restrictions effectively ground the vast majority of domestic flights. Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, and Thai VietJet Air have suspended all domestic flights through the end of July.
Vietnam Restricts Domestic Flights
Meanwhile, in Vietnam only 0.3% of the population is fully vaccinated. As cases rise (currently about 2,000 new cases per day), Vietnam has suspended domestic travel to its southern provinces.
Vietnam has also limited the number of available seats between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi to 1,700 per day, which will represent a 56% drop from the same period in 2020 according to FlightGlobal.
Starting in September, only fully-vaccinated pilots will be allowed to operate flights in Vietnam.
Without widespread vaccinations, nations like Thailand and Vietnam are entering critical phases in their battle against COVID-19. As the more contagious Delta variant spreads, expect more shutdowns and border closures in the days ahead.