THAI Airways is taking the concept of scenic flights to new heights. Later this month, the airline will operate a one-off flight styled as a pilgrimage flight for Buddhists keen on chanting mantras while overflying sacred sites in Thailand. According to Thai Airways, it’s all part of pumping up the local tourism sector and earning yourself a bit of good karma for 2021.
Pilgrimage flight to take in 99 holy sites across 31 provinces
According to a report in The Bangkok Post, THAI will run the flight out of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on November 30. The flight will last for approximately three hours, and fares start at about US$193.
The Bangkok newspaper says the flight will fly over 31 provinces, taking in 99 holy sites, including Chon Buri, Rayong, Surat Thani, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Nakhon Pathom, Suphan Buri, Ayutthaya, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Chaiyaphum, and Nakhon Ratchasima.
“Passengers will receive positive energy from chanting while onboard,” says Wiwat Piyawiroj, an executive vice president at THAI.
As with any self-respecting scenic flight these days, passengers will receive a bag of goodies when boarding. But instead of the standard leftover 2019 aircraft consumables, these passengers will score a prayer book and good luck charms. Well-known Thai astrologist Katha Chinbanchorn will also be taking to the skies as chant leader.
After heading out of Suvarnabhumi, the flight will head towards Chonburi and Rayong provinces. The plane will then south over the Gulf of Thailand to Surat Thani where there is an important Buddhist temple called Wat Chedi. Apparently, a friendly spirit lives there. He’s called Ai Kai (or Egg Boy) and gives out lottery tips. How good those tips are is unknown, but the service is nonetheless most appreciated. From there, the flight will track north towards Sukhothai before finally returning to Bangkok.
An advertisement doing the rounds on Facebook says passengers will remain in the sky for the flight’s duration – which sounds reassuring. We think that means the plane won’t be landing anywhere.
THAI struggles to regain its former mojo
The flight comes as Thailand starts to re-open its doors to travelers. Borders are open to non-Thai nationals from some neighboring countries, medical tourists, non-Thai nationals who are the spouse or children of Thai nationals, non-Thai nationals who have a valid work permit, and long-stay tourists who are prepared to do 14 days state-mandated quarantine upon arrival.
The long-running border closures have devastated the critical tourism industry and Thailand’s national carrier. THAI is presently under a court-supervised “rehabilitation” process aimed at restructuring the airline. THAI had a net operating loss of 22,676 million baht in the first quarter of 2020 and a net operating loss of 5,353 million baht in the second quarter of the year.
The airline has been actively campaigning for Thailand to re-open its doors to tourists, offering to run special charter flights from Europe to kickstart the local tourism industry.
Meanwhile, the airborne Buddhist pilgrimage is an interesting example of generating business from within the country. There’s no word on the take-up rate, but bookings are available until November 25.