Thai Lion Air has opened bookings for a new route linking Chiang Mai in North Thailand with Chengdu in China, effective 23 September.
The airline, that competes head-on with Thai AirAsia in Thailand, will use a Boeing 737-800 aircraft for the three weekly flights.
Most of the sales will go to Chinese tour operators that offer cheap package holidays to North Thailand, using Chiang Mai as the gateway.
But the flights are bookable in Chiang Mai and in the long-run travel agents are likely to sell package tours for the city’s residents featuring Chengdu.
According to AirlineRoute, Thai Lion Air will fly to Chengdu on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday departing from Chiang Mai at 2300 and arriving in Chengdu at 0230. The return flight will depart Chengdu at 0420 and arrive in Chiang Mai at 0610.
A fare check on Thai Lion Air’s website indicates most of the flights are already sold out, possibly due to them being assigned to tour operator allotments in Chengdu.
During late September there were a few seats available on the flight out of Chiang Mai with a one-way fare of THB2,775, but the return flight due to heavy bookings flagged a higher fare of THB4,390, The roundtrip fare with taxes totals THB7,165.
The direct flight takes two hours and 30 minutes.
Sichuan Airline offers a direct service on the route from Chiang Mai to Chengdu with Skyscanner quoting a roundtrip fare of THB16,430.
A one stop service from Chiang Mai, using THAI with a change of plane in Bangkok, offers a fare of THB13,658.
Thai Lion is cheaper by a considerable margin. The trick will be to catch the deals on the few seats it has for sale out of Chiang Mai outside of tour operator allotments.