Thai Airways fleet undergoing resurgence
Set to deploy 9 more aircraft next year
Thai Airways International (THAI) Plc, the country's flag carrier, says 60% of the aircraft in its pre-pandemic fleet have now resumed service following a surge in the number of people travelling, adding that the airline plans to gradually deploy nine more aircraft next year.
Meanwhile, Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of THAI, has seen more than 90% of its fleet return to the skies thanks to strong domestic demand.
Korakot Chatasingha, THAI's chief commercial officer, said the company is looking at opportunities in Asia-Pacific as the number of passengers is forecast to grow 4.5% and reach 2.53 billion by 2040, surpassing all other regions.
THAI has 44 aircraft in service at present, compared with 83 before the pandemic, he said.
Thai Smile has seen the return of 90% of its pre-pandemic fleet, thanks to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and strong demand on domestic routes, he said. The carrier's fleet is able to connect long haul passengers with other provinces via Bangkok.
THAI and Thai Smile together operate 713 flights per week serving 68 destinations, including 402 flights per week within Asia, 63 flights per week in Europe, 21 flights per week serving Australia as well as 227 domestic flights per week, which are operated by Thai Smile.
Mr Korakot said the number of passengers in Asia is increasing, especially on Japanese and Indian routes, as flight capacity has almost reached the level recorded in 2019. Meanwhile, 80% of European passengers have returned, which is considered to be a high rate in line with strong demand during the months of December and January when high airfares don't matter much.
The termination of China's circuit-breaker mechanism -- in which incoming flights are to be suspended if they are found to carry a certain number of passengers who tested positive for Covid upon landing -- is a boon for THAI's flights to China.
China's pandemic restrictions affected 10-15% of the firm's available seat kilometres (ASK) -- a measure of an airline's carrying capacity to generate revenue.
Although China announced last Friday that it would cut the length of quarantine on arrival to five days plus three days in home isolation, this would not totally bring around operators so long as the quarantine measures remain in place, Mr Korakot said.
China is expected to fully reopen in the second quarter of 2023, he said.
Thai Smile is expected to cover domestic routes, regional routes in Southeast Asia as well as secondary cities in China and India.
THAI is looking to resume flights to major cities in mainland China, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, said Mr Korakot.
The company expects to add five more wide-body aircraft and four narrow-body aircraft to its fleet next year to meet its revenue projection.
He said high airfares are expected to persist due to an increase in fuel prices amid geopolitical tensions as this accounts for 40% of the airline's operational costs. Flight capacity is expected to gradually increase.
In the first nine months of this year, THAI booked revenue of 73.1 billion baht with a 11.2-billion baht loss, including a third quarter loss of 4.7 billion baht.