Bangkok Airways rethinks fleet upgrade

Bangkok Airways rethinks fleet upgrade

The fuel-efficient Airbus 320neo is more suited to longer flights, according to Bangkok Airways.
The fuel-efficient Airbus 320neo is more suited to longer flights, according to Bangkok Airways.

Bangkok Airways' long-standing plan to upgrade its fleet with new-generation jetliners is disappearing from the radar screen.

The SET-listed full-service airline is no longer looking to procure new-generation, single-aisle jetliners such as the Airbus 320neo or the Boeing 737 MAX because it will not be able to take advantage of the benefits those aircraft offer.

"Our [jet] flights are mostly within the range of one to one-and-a-half hours, so we won't be able to benefit from the fuel efficiency these modern aircraft have to offer," Bangkok Airways president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth told the Bangkok Post.

The benefits of saving fuel can only be achieved on a flight beyond two hours, he said.

Furthermore, the airline's existing plan does not envisage flights with longer times because the focus will remain on domestic and short-haul regional services.

As jet fuel prices remain relatively low, recently hovering around US$60 a barrel, the fuel efficiency rendered by these new aircraft may not be clearly visible from an economic perspective, casting doubt on the carrier's ability to offset the high capital costs associated with the new generation of aircraft.

The European-made A320neo incorporates a host of efficiency-boosting innovations, including the latest engines and large "sharklet" wingtips.

That means Bangkok Airways will stick to the so-called classic version of the A320 jetliner that dominates the airline's current jet fleet, according to Capt Puttipong.

Bangkok Airways is looking to add three Airbus jetliners, types A320 and A319, to its fleet in the second half of the year.

The airline currently operates 20 A320 and A319 jets along with 13 ATR-72 turboprop aircraft.

Towards the end of the year, the airline will take delivery of two more brand-new ATR 72-600 series with another one due next year to complete an order of nine ATR 72-600 turboprops from the French-Italian aeroplane maker ATR.

The Airbus aircraft that Bangkok Airways will be acquiring will not be brand-new but pre-owned, a strategy to lower capital costs.

Capt Puttipong said the airline would not seek to expand its ATR-72 turboprop fleet because its capacity matches the projected demand and network.

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