THAI returning to Tehran and Moscow

From the 1950s until the Iranian revolution of 1979, Thai International Caravelle (above) and DC-8 aircraft flew scheduled flights to and from Tehran, often packed with Thai workers. (Photo via internet/Operation CIA)

Thai Airways International (THAI) plans to open a new route to Tehran in October and a month later resume service to Moscow, which was suspended during the company's restructuring, THAI president Charamporn Jotikasthira said.

Speaking after a THAI board meeting Thursday, he said the thrice-weekly flights between Bangkok and the capital city of Iran will start on Oct 1. Four flights per week between Bangkok and Moscow will restart on Nov 1.

"THAI is confident more passengers will be drawn from these emerging markets," Mr Charamporn said, noting inbound tourists from Iran have strong purchasing power while Moscow could serve as an important aviation gateway as passenger traffic from Russia to Thailand continues to increase.

The national flag carrier stopped flying to Moscow last year as part of its internal restructuring plan launched on the back of the airline's heavy losses.

According to Mr Charamporn, THAI now is well-positioned to expand its business and stay competitive.

Earlier, all-out efforts were made to tame the airline's losses and turn the company around. Now is the time to start looking for new business opportunities, he said.

On the business potential of the Bangkok-Tehran route, Mr Charamporn said 250,000 people visit Thailand from Iran every year, while there is strong demand for direct flights to Tehran. Solid bookings are expected for the route, he said.

The Bangkok-Moscow flights, meanwhile, are in high demand from business people and tourists, Mr Charamporn said.

THAI is also looking to increase the frequency of flights to cities within Asean through its subsidiary Thai Smile Airways, he said.

THAI will add more flights to Manila and Jakarta, providing greater convenience for people from these cities transiting through Bangkok to connect to India, the Middle East and Europe.

The airline is also recruiting 600 additional crew members, particularly targeting new graduates, to meet the route expansion plan.

Mr Charamporn said THAI will receive two of the latest model Airbus 350 aircraft in August and September which will be deployed on flights between Bangkok and Melbourne, Australia, starting in September.

They are among 14 new aeroplanes purchased by the airline. The rest of the new aircraft will be delivered in the middle of next year and in 2018.

The company was forced to undergo a restructure after it suffered net losses of 13 billion baht last year. It has returned to the black with a net profit of 6 billion baht in the first quarter this year, thanks to cost cutting measures and lower fuel costs.

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