Bankrupt Thai Airways to Add 20 Wide Body Jets?

A Thai Airways Boeing 777 turns onto the runway.
Faisal Akram from Dhaka, Bangladesh, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – With global air travel gaining momentum better than expected, bankrupt Thai Airways is considering adding more widebody aircraft into its Airbus and Boeing fleets. 

The flag carrier of the Kingdom of Thailand THAI or Thai Airways International Plc is in serious talks with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) on both sides – Boeing and Airbus – to add some 20 wide-bodies twin-aisle passenger aircraft in the near future.

Rationalising the fleet


For those who fly THAI on a regular basis, the airline suffered from inconsistency issues before Covid-19 with a broad range of jets spanning the Boeing 747, A330-300, 777-300ER, 787-8, 787-9, 777-200, 777-300 and the Airbus A380, with different ranges in cabin products. 

With the pandemic, the result is that the Thai flag carrier has decided to trim its fleet to only 4 types, with 777-300ER, A350, 787-8 and 787-9 making the cut.

In light of the recent surge in travel demand, THAI has decided to reactivate its old aircraft to keep up with the demand, by temporarily bringing all 6 777-200ER and 3 A330-300s retrofitted with 180 degrees lie-flat business class seats back to service.

However, giving a second life to these jets is not sustainable according to the airline and hence resorted to hunting for 20 wide-body jets. 

Early search has begun


A couple of months ago, Thai Airways decided to add 6 A350-900S to the carrier’s fleet as of early next year, and this we assume is additional to the 20 jets they are currently looking for. 

Negotiations

As we all know, negotiations are just sweet talking and do not eventually end up in a deal. When representatives from THAI were questioned on the decision, they did not respond, and neither did the two manufacturers; namely Airbus and Boeing. 

Boeing of course will not disclose any conversations with its customers and Airbus’s spokesperson slapped a bold statement when the question was asked: “we do not  comment on discussions that we may or may not be having with our customers” 

Still not out of the woods? 


Despite recording good financial reports and an operational profit last quarter, THAI is still under a  $5.3 billion debt rehabilitation plan and went through a series of painful but inevitable trimming cuts including abolishing more than half of its talented staff and 40% of its fleet.

Some say this is a good time to trim inefficient aircraft like the older 777s and the 747s.  

Thailand’s flag carrier is amid a $5.3 billion debt rehabilitation plan, having already undertaken painful cuts that saw it eliminate half of its workforce and 40% of its fleet.

Air travel recovery in Asia leapt and recovered more than one expected which prompted many airlines to reactivate their older fleet and some to increase their orders, including Malaysian Airlines China Airlines. 

THAI’s Chairman Piyasvasti Amranand stated last month that the airline’s financial health is back on the right track, and they are planning to issue new shares next year to raise approximately 25 billion baht.

The Thai flag carrier has received an official to increase its registered capital to 336 billion Thai baht from 21.8 billion baht by issuing new stock. 

The A380 Bandwagon? 


Thai Airways is also considering temporarily reactivating two of its six A380s to life. Though this is yet to be confirmed, the airline is unlikely to do so due to high operating costs.

Is it wise for a bankrupt airline to search for more aircraft? If so, this would be better for the airline in the long run to induct more efficient aircraft into its fleet which will lower its operational cost.

Ultimately, this signifies that the Asian aviation recovery is stronger than anticipated.

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