BANGKOK : Thai Airways aims to finalise 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, its chief executive said on Friday.
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, Chai Eamsiri said in an interview with Reuters at the airline’s headquarters in Bangkok.
The Southeast Asian carrier is looking to cash in on a post-pandemic travel boom by bolstering regional routes, but there have been concerns whether planemakers Airbus and Boeing will be able to ramp up output to meet delivery targets.
Thai Airways, which began bankruptcy protected restructuring of debt worth 400 billion baht ($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, Chai said.
“The long-term narrow-body composition of our fleet should be 30-40 aircraft,” he said.
These aircraft would be deployed to serve destinations in Southeast Asia, India, southern China and southern Japan – key medium-haul routes that Thai Airways wants to reinforce.
“We have to concentrate and focus more on the regional routes, which is our, I can say, weak point,” Chai said.
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, he said.
“That’s for the short term,” Chai said, adding 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 Airways’ cabin factor – the percentage of seats sold – was at about 84 per cent in the last quarter and advance bookings from markets like Europe were looking “promising”, he said.
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.
“If we can do it earlier, we will do it,” he said. “But it depends on the performance this year also.”