Starting June 1, premium fare passengers booking Thai Airways between Bangkok, Paris CDG and Tokyo Narita will be sampling some of the world’s best seating such as suites in first class and fully flat beds in business class.
It will be a far cry from the situation today where flights on these routes are operated by Thai’s ageing B747-400s which, as our readers have testified, have varying standards. In some cases the seating can be up to two generations behind that of regional rivals Cathay Pacific and SIA (for more information see Bad for Business in the March 2010 edition of Business Traveller).
Thai can upgrade its product offering virtually overnight because it is leasing, rather than buying, state-of-the-art planes.
The aircraft in question are three B777-300ERs which Thai is dry leasing for a period of three years (it means Thai provides its own cockpit and cabin staff) from India’s Jet Airways at a reported cost of over US$1 million per plane per month.
The B777-300ERs are equipped with eight suites in first class (1-2-1) and 30 fully flat beds in business class disposed in the herringbone layout (1-2-1). The 274 economy class passengers are not overlooked as their seating comes with seat back entertainment systems and other comfort enhancements.
Although Thai has not yet announced this development in Europe, details of the transaction appear on Jet Airways’ website. This information has also been confirmed by the carrier’s executive VP for commercial affairs, Pruet Boobphakam, in an interview with the Bangkok Post.
Flight schedules for the B777-300ERs are now posted on Thai’s website. Starting June 1, they will operate:
- DailyTG676 Bangkok-Tokyo 0735-1545TG677 Tokyo-Bangkok 1655-2125
- DailyTG930 Bangkok-Paris CDG 0005-0705TG931 Paris CDG-Bangkok 1340-0555 (next day arrival)
From July 16 there will be an additional flight to Paris CDG operating every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday:
- TG932 Bangkok-Paris CDG 1130-1830TG933 Paris CDG-Bangkok 2030-1245 (next day arrival)
Thai says it is anxious to acquire further B777-300ERs to operate on key routes while its fleet of B747-400s undergo retrofitting with more modern seating.
In his Bangkok Post interview, Pruet Boobphakam revealed that Thai is in talks with lease a further three B777-300ERs but this time from Air India.
These particular aircraft are on final assembly at Boeing’s Seattle factory so, if the deal goes ahead, they will be brand new when delivered next October. Details of these new planes’ seating is not yet confirmed. But the current Air India B777-300ERs feature four fully flat beds in first class (1-2-1) 30 fully flat seats in business class (2-3-2) and 303 seats in economy class.
The economic downturn has left India’s airlines with surplus capacity so that is why they are anxious to lease out aircraft. Jet’s three B777-300ERs were leased to Gulf Air for a few months last year and had been earmarked for Royal Brunei Airlines (see online news December 23, 2009) but that deal has fallen though.
With Thai’s B747 refurbishment expected to take a couple of years it is to be hoped that the leased planes will appear on other European routes too. Currently only when passengers fly Bangkok-Zurich with Thai (a route served by a modern A340-600) can they be sure of sampling the carrier’s best premium products.
For more information visit thaiairways.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter