Thai carrier Bangkok Airways to invest in new routes - president

BANGKOK, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Bangkok Airways Pcl plans to invest in new routes, aircraft and airport improvements on the back of rising tourist arrivals to Thailand, a top executive said on Monday.

The carrier plans more charter flights to China, more frequent flights on popular routes and two new routes from Chiang Mai to Hanoi and the island of Phuket to Yangon this year, President Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said.

Thailand’s second-biggest airline by market capitalisation would focus on “expanding our network to cover the most important destinations throughout Asia in order to facilitate our passengers and our codeshare partners,” he told a press conference.

Puttipong said the airline expected to receive two Airbus A319 aircraft this year, with plans to replace six ATR72-500s with new ATR72-600s to maintain a fleet size of 38 aircraft.

It planned to invest 1 billion baht to build an aircraft repair centre at Sukhothai airport, and the same amount to upgrade its airport at the resort island of Samui.

The airline owns and operates the airports at Samui, Sukhothai and Trat, the hub for the resort island of Koh Chang.

Bangkok Airways’ expansion plans come as Thailand expects a rise of 6 percent in tourist numbers this year, after a jump of 9 percent to 35 million in 2017.

Revenue was expected grow 10 percent this year with passenger numbers rising 7 percent, Puttipong said.

On Friday it reported a 55 percent drop in net profit for its 2017 fiscal year to 788 million baht, despite a 1.74 billion baht gain from the sale of stakes in a hospital operator also owned by the Prasarttong-Osoth family. ($1 = 31.3200 baht) (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Wirat Buranakanokthanasan; Editing by Stephen Coates)