News

First look: Thai Airways retrofitted Airbus A330-300

28 Mar 2011

Thai Airways is optimistic that it will have in place a fleet re-energised by new products and services at the end of 2012 as well as a company looking forward to the promise of new-generation aircraft.

Dr Piyasvasti Amranand, Thai Airways president and Thailand’s former energy minister, told Business Traveller that the current retrofitting of 20 aircraft was targeting to complete by that time frame (for more details, see earlier news).

Over the weekend, Amranand inspected an Airbus A330-300 that had arrived from Hamburg – the first of a set of five aircraft whose cabin enhancements (including a new economy product) had been delayed by Japanese seatmaker Koito’s admission last year it had fast-tracked assembly procedures. This delay also affected orders from Singapore Airlines, Continental and All Nippon Airways.

Thai expects the rest of the batch to be delivered on a monthly basis with the next A330 to arrive on April 10. The newly-installed economy seat features a 32-inch seat pitch, 18-inch seat width, and a nine-inch TV screen.

Business class passengers also benefit as the aircraft features a new AVOD in-flight entertainment system (available in all classes), with more than 100 movies and short programmes, and a choice of nearly 300 music albums. Thai says it will use the A330 aircraft “mainly on regional routes”.

Said Amranand: “Getting new seats is not like buying furniture in a shop. Seat manufacturers have a lot of work to do (besides attending to our orders).” He said that in scheduling the retrofitting, the team had to make sure it would not greatly affect route service. Two aircraft will be taken out of the fleet for about 45 days until end 2012.

The ongoing renewal programme, estimated at less than US$200 million, involves Boeing B777s and B747s and the installation of AVOD systems, particularly in economy class, as well as other improvements at the front end of the plane.

Business travellers have been vigorous in their disatisfaction with the products found on long-haul services between Asia and points like London, with some mentioning the angled beds in the Royal Silk Class. Currently, the business class seats have a 170 degree recline and this will not be changed until after 2016, when these seats will be phased out and eventually retrofitted with 180 degree flatbed seats. 

Aware of customers’ rising demands and ever-present competition, Amranand is working on his next move – after raising product consistency – the acquisition of new-generation aircraft.

In an earlier announcement, Thai said its board had approved a plan to acquire 37 new-generation aircraft  (see news), the first wave to come between 2012 and 2017 and the second between 2018 and 2022. These will be made up of 11 narrow bodies and 26 wide bodies. “We’re just waiting for government approval,” he said. The new aircraft will have 180-degree flatbed business class seats. 

To make sure that Thai’s investments in products and services meet passengers’ expectations, the management recently created a new department to look after quality of inboard amenities such as the seats, services and “all the touch points”, Amranand said.

For more about Thai, visit www.thaiairways.com

Margie T Logarta

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