Thai Airways International is in talks with Boeing and Airbus for a plane order potentially involving more than 90 jets as it pursues restructuring and gears up for booming travel markets, industry sources have told Reuters.
The national carrier, which is in the midst of a bankruptcy-protected debt restructuring, has previously indicated a need for 30 or more new jets, but its latest request for industry bids opens the door to the purchase of as many as 95 aircraft, the sources said.
These would include 15 narrow-body jets and up to 80 wide-body planes, the sources said, marking one of the largest orders for big jetliners from Southeast Asia in recent years. Aviation experts say such large orders are typically spread out over a decade or so.
Currently, THAI and its subsidiaries have 67 active aircraft, comprising 20 narrow-bodied planes and 47 wide-body models. In the second quarter, THAI took delivery of two wide-bodied aircraft on an operating lease basis.
Boeing and Airbus declined to comment on any commercial discussions with their customers.
In a statement to Reuters, the airline said it was at the “very early stage” of exploring the market.
“Thai Airways’ long-term network and fleet strategies have not yet been concluded … and no commitments had been made,” the statement said.
Rehabilitation ahead of schedule
THAI last month reported second-quarter revenue totalling 37.3 billion baht, up 73.7% from the same period last year, as travel demand continues to improve.
Net profit for the quarter was 2.26 billion baht, compared with a net loss of 3.2 billion a year earlier. Profit for the first half was 14.77 billion baht, against a loss of 6.47 billion in the first six months of 2022.
CEO Chai Eamsiri said that four consecutive quarters of profits had put the carrier ahead of schedule in terms of its rehabilitation plan. It should be able to exit rehabilitation by the fourth quarter of next year and resume trading on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in February 2025, he added.
Mr Chai said in June that THAI aimed to finalise a deal to buy 30 wide-body jets and an undisclosed number of narrow-bodies by the end of the year.
The carrier is looking to make the most of a post-pandemic travel boom by bolstering regional routes, but there have been concerns over the ability of Airbus and Boeing to ramp up output to meet surging demand from customers worldwide.
THAI currently has 20 Airbus A320 aircraft and has secured a dozen new A321neo jets on lease for delivery in 2025 and 2026.
It also operates a mixed fleet of about 45 larger wide-body jets including the recent Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 and the older Boeing 777 and Airbus A330.
In the short term, the wide-body fleet would increase from 45 to 56 aircraft by the first quarter of next year through leases, Mr Chai told Reuters in June.
Those planes will be used on long-distance intercontinental routes to Australia and Europe, routes that have been recovering strongly.