Thai Airways International (THAI) plans to add at least nine aircraft to its operational fleet in the first quarter of 2023 and will increase its flights to Europe and Japan to meet the rising demands of post-pandemic tourism, acting CEO Suvadhana Sibunruang said on Monday.
He said THAI would reinstate its three A330-300 and two B777-200ER jets, which were grounded due to the effects on the travel industry of the Covid-19 pandemic. All five aircraft are undergoing maintenance before returning to full service next year.
THAI will rent another four A350-900 aircraft with a 12-year contract at US$770,000 (26.8 million baht) per aircraft, said Mr Suvadhana. The leases are being considered by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) and the Transport Ministry, he said, adding that the first new aircraft is expected to be delivered by next March.
He said that additional nine aircraft would provide more frequent flights to existing routes to Europe and Japan and also resume the routes that had been halted during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said about 70% of THAI's international routes have now reopened, added Mr Suvadhana.
Currently, Thailand's flag carrier has 61 aircraft, including 17 B777-300ER, 12 Airbus A350, eight B787, four B777-200ER and 20 Airbus A320-200 aircraft. The latter is operated by Thai Smile Airways, its sister company. Mr Suvadhana also said that Thai Smile Airways plans to lease 10 Boeing B777 aircraft to meet the rising demand for air travel, especially when China opens up and allows its citizens to travel freely.
THAI was looking to sell six of its grounded Airbus A380 aircraft but could not find a suitable buyer. Putting the aircraft back to work was considered, but is impractical, Mr Suvadhana said.
The aircraft have been grounded for over two years, and check-ups and maintenance now needed will take eight months, he said.
"The maintenance needs a huge amount of budget, so we will momentarily pause the operation of the Airbus A380s."
THAI has sold 19 aircraft so far as a part of the debt rehabilitation and will sell another 22 aircraft, including the six Airbus A380s.
Suvadhana: Aims to meet rising demand