Transport Minister approves new planes plan for THAI Airways

Thailand’s new Minister of Transport approved a plan last week for THAI Airways International to buy or lease 38 new aircraft to keep the national carrier competitive.

“If we don’t invest and instead let the business run at a loss, it will stay like that,” said Minister of Transport Saksayam Chidchob.

The Minister signed off on a budget of $4.4 billion to for the new planes. THAI’s fleet contains aircraft made by Boeing and Airbus.

THAI Airways International has won numerous awards, including World’s Best Economy Class from Skytrax in 2018. But a slowing global economy and stiff competition from budget airlines have hit the national carrier hard, saddling it with over $3 billion in accumulated debts from several difficult years.

Saksayam said an independent assessment would be done to confirm that investing in the new aircraft would increase THAI’s competitiveness. He called the investment “necessary” for the airline to attract more passengers and return to profitability.

The investment is a bold move, he insisted, because the airline’s fleet is aging. New planes that are more comfortable for passengers and operate more efficiently are imperative for the carrier to survive, he said.

As of 2019, THAI operates a fleet of 80 aircraft, of which Boeing manufactured 47 and Airbus made 33. THAI’s budget airline subsidiary THAI Smile has 20 aircraft all manufactured by Airbus.

The Center for Aviation said THAI is “pushing forward with long-overdue widebody renewal as part of the first phase of a new fleet plan. The airline intends to phase out all of its remaining 747-400s, 77-200s, and 777-300s – many of which are over 20 years old – by 2022.”

The Center predicted that THAI’s growth would be modest during the first half of its 10-year fleet plan, and accelerate during its second half.