Nok Air (DD, Bangkok Don Mueang) will remain owned by Thai investors going forward as local ownership provides increased security in case of a conflict or sanctions, Chief Executive Wutthiphum Jurangkool told The Bangkok Post in an interview.

"We have to make sure that the Thai aviation industry will not be dominated by foreigners. As long as our family is here, I'd like to ensure that the major shareholder of Nok Air will not be a foreign investor, in order to prevent the country from being paralysed when facing sanction or international conflicts," he told the English language-daily.

The low-cost carrier is majority-owned by the Jurangkool family, which, through three members, controls a 74.5% stake in the airline. Wutthiphum himself is not a shareholder.

The Jurangkools' control of Nok Air has been steadily increasing since 2011 when Thai Airways International (TG, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi) started gradually diluting its stake in the low-cost carrier. The flag carrier owned 49% of Nok Air at the peak of its involvement, although its stake has since whittled down to 13.28%.

Wutthiphum did not go into details of the carrier's current financial situation in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has heavily affected demand but which has yet to halt the Thai tourism industry altogether. He said, however, that the crisis will result in Nok Air being unable to achieve profitability in one or two years from now, as previously planned.

"We have to revise our plan completely because the impact of coronavirus is unpredictable and is expected to linger until the first half of this year," the CEO said.

According to the ch-aviation schedules module, Nok Air has so far suspended all of its international services but continues to operate an extensive domestic network. However, Thailand has been relatively unaffected by the pandemic with cases starting to increase only in the second half of March. On March 22, the government began requiring all foreigners to present health certificates before boarding flights to the country amid increasing calls for a total entry ban and a national lockdown.

Editorial Comment: The article has been corrected to reflect the suspension of all international routes by Nok Air. - 31.03.2020 - 15:39 UTC