Thailand's ailing low-cost carriers have dispached a follow-up letter to the country's prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, repeating an earlier appeal for soft loans reportedly delayed in the absence of a finance minister, the Bangkok Post reported.

The airlines requested a meeting with Chan-o-cha to discuss the problems facing the carriers, which have yet to receive government support, said Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Thai AirAsia majority shareholder Asia Aviation.

Thai Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana resigned on July 16 adding further uncertainty to a poorly performing economy and delaying the rollout of billions of dollars of government stimulus measures to fight the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the travel and tourism sectors.

A replacement minister, Predee Daochai, was inaugurated only on August 12.

As previously reported, eight Thai airlines applied to the government at the end of March for a total of THB24.15 billion baht (USD776 million) in soft loans spread over five years at 2% interest, with repayment starting on January 1, 2021.

The airlines - Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, NokScoot, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, Thai Lion Air, Thai Smile, and Thai VietJetAir - asked for different amounts ranging from THB900 million (USD28.9 million, Thai VietJetAir) to THB4.5 billion (USD145 million, Thai AirAsia) and underlined the urgency of their needs. But there has been no response.

NokScoot, a 51/49 joint venture between Nok Air and Singapore Airlines Group, was liquidated in late June, and Nok Air itself applied for bankruptcy protection on July 30.

Airlines cannot make a profit by depending on domestic routes alone, Bijleveld said, adding that carriers will have to resort to deeper cost cuts such as putting staff on unpaid leave, as well as scanning for opportunities at new airports to seize local demand.

This week, Thai AirAsia was given permission to open a new hub at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, returning there after an absence of eight years and making it the only Thai carrier to fly from both Suvarnabhumi and Bangkok Don Mueang.

It plans four routes to link the airport with Chiang Mai 5x daily, Phuket 3x daily, and Krabi and Surat Thani 2x daily.

“Suvarnabhumi Airport is an excellent aviation hub with easy access to the city centre and high potential for international connecting flights in the future,” Thai AirAsia CEO Santisuk Klongchaiya said. “This should pave the way for new travel groups and enable us to better utilise our planes.”