Thai Lion goes long haul with new Airbus jets
Thai Lion Air (TLA) is making sure its entry into the medium-to-long-haul segment of Thailand's fledging low-cost carrier (LCC) market will be noted.
TLA has confirmed the delivery schedules of its first three wide-body jets, the Airbus A330-300, which will be instrumental to its venture into long-distance services as soon as this year-end.
These three jets are new from Airbus' assembly line in Toulouse and incorporate features adopted by full-service airlines to stand out from its rivals, TLA chief executive Aswin Yangkirativorn told the Bangkok Post.
The aircraft will have a business-class-like cabin, which it terms premium economy, with seats that lie flat and a complimentary back-seat in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.
Standard economy seats come equipped with similar IFE offering blockbuster movies, also complimentary. Premium economy will comprise 18-20 seats, while there are 370 seats in the back cabin.
Thai AirAsia X (TAAX) and NokScoot, two existing players in Thailand's medium-to-long-haul LCC segment, do not offer such features, even in their premium sections.
TLA's new jets will be distinctive because of their special liveries, differing from TLA's standard motif of the red trademark on a white fuselage.
The first aircraft is scheduled for delivery in November, with the other two due in December this year, said Mr Aswin.
The wide-body jets have significantly more flying range and seat capacity than TLA's current business model, featuring short-haul flights operated by narrow-body aircraft.
TLA's current fleet comprises the Boeing B737-800 and B737-900ER, configured with 189 and 215 seats, respectively, in an all-economy class layout. They can fly distances of 5,665 kilometres and 5,900km, respectively.
The A330-300 can carry up to 400 passengers over a maximum range of 11,750km non-stop.
Mr Aswin said the new jets will be primarily used for the launch of regular services from its Bangkok's Don Mueang airport base to China, Japan and South Korea -- the same markets already covered by TAAX and NokScoot.
The first new route is to Shanghai, with TLA already securing the traffic rights from Chinese authorities. Beijing is next, with an application for rights and airport slots already submitted.