Air Canada is set to launch non-stop flights four times per week between Vancouver and Bangkok between Dec. 1 and April 17.
The flights are thought to be the first non-stop commercial flights ever operated between those two cities.
"I do not believe we've had one," said University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business adjunct professor John Korenic, who was director of aviation marketing at the Vancouver Airport Authority between 1999 and 2014.
"What there has been, back in the Canadian Airlines days, was flights to Hong Kong that continued on with fifth freedom rights into Bangkok. In those days I think you probably wouldn't be able to go non-stop anyway, because of the ranges that aircraft could fly."
Fifth freedom rights enable airlines to pick up and drop off passengers at stop-over cities.
The flights on Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes are set to leave Vancouver on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 11 p.m., and arrive in Bangkok at 5:55 a.m. two days later. The return flights leave Bangkok on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 8:30 a.m., and arrive in Vancouver at 6:35 a.m. that same day.
The last departure set so far to Bangkok from Vancouver is on April 14, with the return trip landing in Vancouver April 17.
"We are extremely pleased to be launching our first non-stop service to South-East Asia this winter, the only one between North America and Thailand," said Mark Galardo, Air Canada's senior vice-president of network planning and revenue management in a statement.
"Thailand is a popular leisure destination for Canadians."
Korenic said that historically, the Canadian and Thai governments' air agreement did not allow Thai Airways to fly to Vancouver, as it designated specific Canadian cities that could receive Thai flights. Air Canada, in contrast, was able to fly out of Vancouver to Bangkok if desired, he said. He was not sure if that air agreement has recently been altered.
"Bangkok is a medium-sized market," he said. "I know a lot of friends of mine go to Ko Samui or other places in Thailand in our winter."
Non-stop flights between Vancouver and Southeast Asia have been few and far between through the decades.
Air Canada and Philippine Airlines have flown to Manila. Singapore Airlines on Dec. 2 launched seasonal flights four times per week to Vancouver until mid-February. It then extended the route to be operational until at least the end of October.
"The other market that would be interesting to see out of Vancouver is Vietnam," Korenic said. "That's something that should be in the works at some point."
Airlines have been rapidly expanding route networks as COVID-19 restrictions get lifted and those who love to travel feel more confident booking flights.
Air Canada's non-stop route to Brisbane, Australia, for example, is set to resume on July 1, with four flights per week. The airline said today that it will expand frequency to Brisbane out of Vancouver to five times per week starting in December.
Air Canada's Vancouver flights to Auckland, New Zealand is set to resume Nov. 10, with three flights per week, and then increase to five flights per week between December and March.
The airline's Vancouver-to-Sydney, Australia route is set to expand to 10 times per week in December and January.
Not long after Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, Korenic questioned how viable it would be for Air Canada to fly non-stop between Vancouver and Delhi, India, because of added costs of flying around Russian airspace. Air Canada first added what it called a "technical stop" in Dublin for flights to Delhi from Vancouver, and then it halted the route temporarily.
That route is set to restart three times per week on October 1. Flights to Delhi from Vancouver will once again have technical stops in Dublin, Ireland. Return trips are not expected to need that stop. The airline is able to fly non-stop to Vancouver from Delhi because winds tend to blow in that direction and enable the aircraft to make the trip without needing to stop for fuel, Korenic suggested.