BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's second-largest budget carrier, Nok Airlines (NOK.BK), said on Monday it expected its net loss in the third quarter will be lower than the second and aims to make profit in the fourth quarter due to rising passenger numbers.
As political unrest dampened tourism and travel demand, Nok Airlines has suffered like other carriers but forecast a turnaround in the second half as the political situation calms down.
Nok Airlines's average cabin factor, the percentage of seats sold, is expected to hit 79-80 percent this year, lower than 85 percent last year, due to the impact of the country's domestic political unrest, chief executive Patee Sarasin told reporters.
The budget carrier expects passenger numbers will hit 8 million this year, exceeding the target of 7 million, after it took delivery of five new planes that will boost its capacity by 25 percent, Patee said.
"The third quarter is low season and we expect the cabin factor should be around 80 percent, higher than 76-77 percent in the second quarter," Patee said.
Nok Airlines, 39.2 percent owned by national carrier Thai Airways International Pcl (THAI.BK), reported a net loss of 160 million baht ($5 million)in the second quarter versus a profit of 260 million baht a year earlier.
The budget airline signed a deal with Scoot Airlines, part of Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI), to set up a new low-cost carrier Nok Scoot to serve medium to long-haul flights.
It plans to launch Nok Scoot in late November, which should boost the number of passengers by 10-15 percent, he said.
Nok Airlines, which has market share of 27 percent, competes with market leader Thai AirAsia (AAV.BK), Thai Lion Air, a unit of Indonesian Lion Air Group, and Orient Thai Airlines.
Competition in the Thai budget airline market has intensified by an influx of new rivals after Thai Lion Air began domestic flights last December.
Reporting by Manunphattr Dhanananphorn; Writing by Khettiya Jittapong