Chiang Mai's International Upturn

Credit: Noppasin Wongchum/Alamy Stock Photo

China Airlines’ decision to launch a new route to Routes Asia 2023 host Chiang Mai (CNX) from early next year is the latest boost for the Thai airport as it seeks to recover and expand its network.

Flights from Taiwan Taoyuan International (TPE) will take off on Jan. 20, 2023, operating four times per week using a 180-seat Airbus A321neo. The 2,396-km (1,294-nm) route will be the airline’s second to Thailand alongside its existing service to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK).

China Airlines will become the third operator of TPE-CNX flights after EVA Airways and Thai AirAsia each resumed daily service at the start of the northern winter 2022/23 season.

Plans to open the new route come as passenger numbers at Chiang Mai continue to creep higher, recovering to 559,487 during October 2022—equivalent to 60% of pre-pandemic levels. Domestic traffic during the month was 78% of 2019 levels, while international traffic stood at 12% , up from 7% in August.

In late September, Thailand lifted the last of its pandemic-related travel restrictions, joining the growing number of Asian countries in fully reopening their borders to international visitors. Airlines are responding to the move, with Korean Air resuming flights from Seoul Incheon (ICN) to Chiang Mai, and VietJet restarting a route from Ho Chi Minh City (SGN).

Jeju Air also reinstated service from ICN and Busan (PUS) in November and T'Way Air is restarting its ICN-CNX route from Dec. 28. Elsewhere, Myanmar National Airlines is launching a new 2X-weekly Chiang Mai service from Yangon (RGN), while Thai VietJet plans to begin a 3X-weekly Osaka (ITM) route in late January 2023.

“Thailand was badly hit by COVID-19 and especially Chiang Mai, which also received a significant number of Chinese tourists,” Airports of Thailand (AOT) senior EVP of business development Sirote Duangratana said. “Events like Routes Asia are essential to help rebuild Chiang Mai’s network with the rest of the world.”

Located 700 km (435 mi.) from Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the largest city in the north of Thailand in terms of economic scale and population. Due to its distinct cultural heritage, nature, scenery and hospitality, the city is popular among tourists and welcomed almost 10 million visitors a year before the pandemic struck.

Chiang Mai counts Thai AirAsia as its largest carrier in December 2022 with a 34.1% share of departure seats, OAG data shows. Thai Vietjet is the second largest with a 17% share, with Nok Air in third on 16.3%.

Routes Asia 2023 will take place in Chiang Mai on Feb. 14-16, 2023

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.