Thai Airways (THAI) aims to finalize a deal to buy at least 30 new aircraft by the end of the year and could double its fleet of narrow-body jets over the next decade, according to its chief executive.
THAI CEO Chai Eamsiri said in an interview with Reuters at the airline’s headquarters in Bangkok that the airline will issue a ‘request for proposal’ to Airbus and Boeing to buy 30 wide-body and an undisclosed number of narrow-body aircraft next week.
The carrier is looking to cash in on a post-pandemic travel boom by bolstering regional routes, but there have been concerns over whether planemakers Airbus and Boeing will be able to ramp up output to meet delivery targets.
Chai said THAI, which began bankruptcy-protected restructuring of debt worth 400 billion baht (US$11.17 billion) in 2021, currently has a fleet of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft and has secured a dozen new A321neo on lease for delivery in 2025 and 2026.
These aircraft would be deployed to serve destinations in Southeast Asia, India, southern China and southern Japan – key medium-haul routes that THAI wants to reinforce.
Chai noted that the carrier’s wide-body fleet will also increase from 45 currently to 56 aircraft by the first quarter of next year, with the additional jets coming on dry lease contracts, which typically do not include crew.
“That’s for the short term,” according to Chai, who added that the aircraft will be used on long-distance intercontinental routes to Australia and Europe that have seen a strong recovery since the pandemic.
THAI’s cabin factor – the percentage of seats sold – was at about 84% in the last quarter and the CEO said advance bookings from markets like Europe were looking “promising”.
Chai, a former Thai Airways chief financial officer who took over as CEO last November, said the airline’s pandemic-driven restructuring plan was on track and it would relist on the stock market by the first quarter of 2025.