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THAI commits to cutting back the fleet

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BANGKOK, 7 January 2022: For decades, Thai Airways International’s fleet breakdown resembled the festive season’s tin of assorted biscuits; the aircraft types pleased everyone except those who had custody of the balance sheet. THAI is about to change all that.

In a recent presentation to the media, the airline unveiled its ‘Discover Brand New Sky’ that promises to reduce aircraft types from an unwieldy nine to a manageable four if you include its daughter airline, Thai Smile. It’s been long overdue, and aviation experts will be watching to see if the airline can deliver on its promise and scale down its fleet. 

THAI says it is now a priority to sell off 24 aircraft and terminate lease agreements on another 16 as it speeds up its restructuring plan that was approved by the Bankruptcy Court’s ruling last year. The plan calls for the airline to serve its domestic and international network with 58 aircraft.

If successful, the airline will have just four aircraft types on its books — Boeing 777s (Total 18; four 777-200ERs, 14 777-300ERs), Airbus A350-900s (12 aircraft) and Boeing Dreamliners (Total eight; six 787-8 and two 787-9). Domestic services offered by Thai Smile will use exclusively A320s (20 aircraft).

It’s a massive ask to sell off 24 aircraft a mix of A300s, A330s, A340s Boeing 777s, Boeing 737s and 10 ageing 747-400s, especially when the list includes two A380-800s. On top of that, the airline has to terminate lease agreements on another 12 A330-300s and four A380s.

The airline’s worldwide network has shrunk in response to two years of Covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions. We can expect the national airline to increase frequencies to tourist generating markets worldwide. However, the airline will be hard-pressed to restore its pre-Covid-19 network during 2022 or even 2023.

In Europe, it was serving just four destinations (27 weekly flights) in the final quarter of 2021, and that will increase to nine destinations and 32 flights weekly during the first quarter of 2022. Initially, the airline will focus on reopening travel from the UK and Germany to Thailand during the first quarter of 2022

In Asia, the first quarter of 2022 will see destinations served increase from nine to 19 raising weekly flights within the region from 38 to 100 flights weekly.

Australia will be served in the first quarter with daily flights to Sydney up from four weekly in the last quarter of 2021. The sales emphasis remains to support the Phuket Sandbox scheme with flights to Phuket direct from Sydney.

Thai Smile will increase domestic flights from 106 flights weekly to 13 destinations to 280 per week to 14 destinations.

The airline intends to revisit commercial relations with travel agencies and tour operators worldwide neglected in recent years when it concentrated on direct online channels.

In the 2022 Discover Brand New Sky presentation, the airline says it will unbundle economy fares and charge additional fees for baggage, seat selection, upgrades and other inflight options.

On sales distribution, the airline asserts the need to “balance and leverage direct online and travel agency channels” and introduce “performance-based incentive sales support.”  

What travellers can expect

Fare deals relevant to all destinations knock 15% off standard fares for bookings made directly on the airline’s website using Mastercard. The booking period opens from 19 to 25 January for travel from 15 January to 30 October 2022.

If you are flying business class, you will be treated to an individually brewed cup of Black Silk Blend coffee at the close of meal service. The coffee brand is specially selected and roasted at an organic plantation on Doi Tung mountain in far north Chiang Rai, exclusive to THAI flights.

And it might not be too long before THAI can ramp up its inflight service once the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand eases inflight rules for airlines.

We asked the airline’s chairman and recovery plan administrator, Piyasvasti Amranand, the timeline for the full resumption of inflight service?

He responded: “CAAT’s rules and regulations do not allow us to offer full service like before Covid yet. We have to follow CAAT guidelines. But we are hoping to resume full-service during in the first quarter of 2022.”

In the meantime, travellers can book their inflight meal choice online until the luxury of printed menus are back in seat pockets, and passengers can enjoy a last-minute change of heart switching their main course choice as the trolley approaches.

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