Media veteran Sorajak Kasemsuvan set out in his new job as president of Thai Airways International (THAI) yesterday by highlighting how a touch of Thainess can enhance the struggling flag carrier's declining market position.
New Thai Airways International president Sorajak Kasemsuvan poses against the backdrop of THAI’s A380 superjumbo, which just joined its fleet recently. Though he was light on details, Dr Sorajak believes blending Thai cuisine, Otop silk fabrics and courteous service into THAI’s offerings will differentiate the airline and halt its spluttering performance. THITI WANNAMONTHA
Dr Sorajak, 57, said branding is an important element if THAI is to increase revenue, weathering a difficult operating environment and competing with cash-rich Middle East carriers.
Blending various aspects of Thailand such as cuisine, Otop silk fabrics and courteous service into THAI's offerings would differentiate the airline from others, he said.
At his first press conference yesterday, Dr Sorajak, who resigned as chairman of state-controlled media concern MCOT Plc late last week to become THAI's 16th chief executive, did not say specifically what he would try to achieve during his four-year tenure.
He did not comment on THAI chairman Ampon Kittiampon's statement last Friday that Dr Sorajak was expected to ensure annual 6% revenue growth, which tallied 195 billion baht last year, nor did he discuss this year's profitability.
THAI suffered a loss of 10.2 billion baht last year.
The flag carrier reported a net profit of 3.64 billion baht in the first quarter of this year before slipping into the red again in the second quarter with a 7.87-billion-baht loss.
Dr Sorajak said he would come up with a business plan for THAI by year-end.
He is scheduled to meet the THAI board for the first time in his capacity as airline president on Friday, when he is expected to discuss what he plans to achieve.
In a one-hour meeting with senior THAI executives yesterday morning at the airline's headquarters, THAI executives said Dr Sorajak seemed to hit the nail on the head by focusing on the need to tackle the bottom line _ improving THAI's offerings in the eyes of customers and driving up revenue.
Meanwhile, an analyst who asked to remain anonymous listed at least five issues yesterday that Dr Sorajak must address to ensure THAI's survival and growth.
Among them was good management of volatile fuel prices, which accounts for one-third of the airline's operating costs, by means of hedging and other mechanisms.
Cost control, the timely cancellation of loss-making routes, getting rid of idle jetliners such as the four expensive long-range A340-500s and raising its marketing effort fill out the list.
The analyst conservatively estimated THAI will report a net profit of 3.8 billion baht this year, driven by gains in the peak fourth-quarter travel period.
"We can only hope THAI is better off with this president than the previous one, but only time will tell," said a senior THAI executive, referring to Piyasvasti Amranand, who was sacked in June.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business