November 9, 2017 / 1:30 AM / a year ago

Thai Vietjet regains licence certification, to launch new international route

* Thai Vietjet licence recertified by Thai authorities

* Will launch Bangkok-Dalat, Vietnam route in December

* Thai rivals like NokScoot also looking to grow

SINGAPORE, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Thai Vietjet, an offshoot of rapidly growing Vietnamese airline group Vietjet Aviation JSC , has had its operating licence recertified by Thai authorities, allowing it to launch a new international route, the parent company said.

Thai Vietjet is the first plank of Vietjet’s strategy of forming joint ventures in Asian countries to expand its brand and reach, as Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd and Indonesia’s Lion Air already have done.

VietJet grabbed headlines with bikini-clad flight attendants when it launched in 2011, and its success on the Ho Chi Minh stock exchange reflects its rapid ascent since, including 45 jets operating in the domestic and international market.

The airline has 119 Airbus SE A320 family and 100 Boeing Co 737 narrow bodies on order, making it a very important customer for both manufacturers.

CAPA Centre for Aviation last month said Vietjet needed markets beyond Vietnam in order to use all of those aircraft, but said it would face challenges doing so because rival low-cost carriers were already established in most markets.

“We believe that the certification will further reassure the confidence of travellers across the globe in our services and the Thai airline industry as well,” Thai Vietjet CEO Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Thai Vietjet’s ability to fly internationally was suspended in September while the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand audited carriers as part of a recertification process that led to the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) lifting its “red flag” status on the country last month.

Thailand was downgraded in June 2015 after its regulator missed a deadline to resolve safety concerns, meaning that airlines were unable to add international routes, though they could continue to operate routine flights.

Vietjet said its Thai offshoot, which has a fleet of three A320s, would begin flying from Bangkok to Dalat, a mountainous tourist destination in Vietnam, from December.

Now that the ICAO red flag status has been lifted, other carriers are also looking to expand international flights.

Singapore Airlines Ltd CEO Goh Choon Phong on Wednesday told media and analysts that the airline’s low-cost NokScoot joint venture with Thailand’s Nok Airlines PCL would look to add more aircraft and international destinations. (Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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