At long last some details have begun to emerge about the new generation of seating which Thai Airways will begin to install over the coming years.
Right now the standard of Thai’s seating is uncompetitive, especially in Business class (see Bad for Business in the March 2010 issue of Business Traveller) where one can find seating which may be a couple of generations behind what is offered by the likes of British Airways, SIA and, soon, Cathay Pacific (see online news December 7).
Quoted in the Bangkok Post, Rangsiman Mokkhasmit, Thai’s director for product development, says “The current inflight products are indeed our weak point. They’re inconsistent from aircraft to aircraft, route to route and they impede our ability to move up the ladder of the world’s best.”
According to the Bangkok Post, the new seating (which covers first, business and economy classes) will be fitted to Thai’s new fleet of seven twin-engined A330s and six A380 super jumbos which are scheduled to enter service from February 2012 onwards.
These planes will be servicing Thai’s medium and long-haul routes covering destinations in Asia, Europe and Australasia.
In particular the A380s are expected to be rostered for Thai’s busy routes linking Bangkok with European airports like London Heathrow, Paris CDG and Frankfurt.
The new seating will provide Thai’s premium passengers with fully lie-flat beds in both first and business class. First class passengers will be accommodated in either “suite” or “mini-suite” accommodation while initial pictures of the business class seating displayed in the Bangkok Post resemble that fitted to Emirates’ A380s.
Regional flights (these may not offer first class) will be equipped with more modest business classes with angled lie-flat seating. Full AVOD will be offered to all passengers with screen size varying from 15 ins (economy class) up to 23 ins (first class).
One downside is that Thai is taking a leaf out of other airlines’ books and reducing seat pitch in economy class. Currently Thai’s 34 ins of pitch in economy is generous compared with its rivals. But the carrier’s new seating will reduce the pitch to 31 or 32 ins.
The picture for the rest of Thai’s aircraft is unclear as it operates a varied fleet. Some of the older planes will be retired from service within the next few years so it is unlikely they will ever see the new seating. Thai’s ultra long-range A340-500s are up for sale. So it would seem that a number of Thai’s newer and existing aircraft will receive the revised seats but the timescale for retrofitting is unclear.
It is true that a handful of Thai’s planes, namely its three B777-300ERs, already have flat bed seating in the premium cabins. But these craft are being leased from India’s Jet Airways and will have to be returned at some stage. In any case, they tend to operate only two routes: Bangkok to Tokyo Narita and Paris CDG.
For more information visit thaiair.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter