BANGKOK, 4 November 2019: Thai Airways International’s chairman of the board resigned at the weekend.
The statement forwarded to the Stock Exchange of Thailand said Ekniti Nitithanprapas had relinquished the board chair but failed to provide further details.
Air Chief Marshal Chaiyapruk Didyasarin, who is the current vice-chairman, will take over as acting chairman until the Ministry of Transport indicates its preference for a permanent appointment.
It is also understood that the Transport Minister is pressuring all members of the board to resign to clear the way for a new board to be appointed.
Three of the airline’s executive directors recently quit while the airline’s president, Sumeth Damrongchaitham, caused a stir last month when he said the company was in crisis, a statement that should have been filed first with the SET according to rules on disclosure regarding the release of financial news for public listed companies.
Aviation observers say the airline has lost the competitive edge on its core ‘bread-and-butter’ long haul routes even when compared with its Star Alliance partners. As for its regional routes, it is at the mercy of nimble low-cost airlines that simple out price the Thai national carrier.
It is also grossly over-staffed when compared with Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines that have been more successful weathering the storms of disruption mostly caused by the dominance of low-cost airlines.
According to a report in the Bangkok Post, THAI blames its misfortunes on a slowdown in tourism in Thailand although statistics from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports suggest travel to Thailand over the first nine months of the year increased by 3.45% to reach 29.47 million trips.
The statistics lump all kinds of travel to Thailand, including long-stay visa holders who are retired or work in Thailand but make frequent trips in and out of the country.
Unfortunately for THAI, it is leaking market share that has drifted over the last 10 years to low-cost airlines, particularly in Asia. Efforts to regain market share through a financial stake in Nok Air and later in establishing the subsidiary, Thai Smile, failed to reverse the passenger migration to low-cost airlines. Both Nok and Thai Smile are hybrid versions of the low-cost airline business model, and they have succeeded admirably at falling between two stools.