Thai targets product improvement on European routes

22 Jul 2011 by BusinessTraveller

Forthcoming A380 aircraft, newly-leased B777-300s and retrofitted B747 jumbos should mean Thai Airways customers will gradually see an improved onboard experience on European routes over the next twelve months.

Thai Airways recently took delivery of the first of its retrofitted B747-400 aircraft, with another five due by 2012 and a total of twelve eventually due for completion by 2013. The new product will provide customers across all three classes with a personal TV screen and inflight connectivity, as well as new economy seats and a 180 degree lie flat bed in Royal First Class.

At a recent event at Airbus’ factory in Toulouse the president of Thai Airways Piyasvasti Amranand said that “it’s very clear that with competition on European routes if your product is not good then you lose your customers.”

To illustrate this the carrier points to a 20 per cent rise year-on-year in customers on its Paris-Bangkok route (using new B777-300ERs leased from Jet Airways), compared to a fall in customers on its London and Frankfurt routes of ten and six per cent respectively. Amranand said he is “pretty confident that once the new product starts to come in we should be able to recapture the lost market.”

This year Thai Airways will acquire 37 new aircraft, with 22 coming on 12-year operating leases and 15 more purchased as part of its broader fleet regeneration project (see online news January 17).

Thai will also continue to lease B777-300ERs from Jet Airways on two year leases in order “to help us improve our product and increase capacity quickly,” said Mr Amranand before confirming that it will be leasing a further two B777s from the Indian carrier next year to accompany the three currently on lease.

The carrier’s new batch of A330 aircrafts, the first of which was delivered in March, will serve regional and domestic routes such as Japan, India, Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China, but not Europe which will be served by the A340-600, B747, B777 and A380 aircrafts.

Thai Airways has recently released more details about its forthcoming A380 aircraft (see online news July 20), including a computer generated tour of the superjumbo’s layout. Amranand conceded that filling the A380 in the low season, the second quarter of the year, would be key to the economics of the aircraft.

Thai Airways has also signed 12 year operating leases on eight B787 Dreamliners (scheduled for delivery in 2014-17) and eight A350s (2016-17) as well as six A320s (2012-13) in an attempt to keep debt levels down in its fleet regeneration efforts. The carrier has also purchased six B777-300ERs (2014-15), four A350s (2016-17) and five A320s (2014-15).

The average age of the Thai Airways fleet currently stands at 11.7 years, with the long term aim to reduce this to eight years by 2017 and to increase the size of the fleet from 85 to 105, all while simplifying the number of types of aircraft and engines across the fleet.

Amranand says that “In the future we do not want to keep aircrafts until they are 25 years old because new aircrafts are a lot more fuel efficient and maintenance costs are a lot lower. That’s why 12 new leases is not a bad option.”

Amranand also believes that increasing frequencies would be best for the company but until the new aircraft arrive he will look at reopening routes where there is little competition, such as the Brussels to Bangkok route which is due to recommence in December (see online news June 27), along with a possible one-stop service to New York.

Amranand said that “With the new plan there will be a reduction in the number of types of aircraft and engines, and obviously it looks that we will have a large fleet of B777s for long haul, and for the medium haul we will have a large fleet of A330s so that the A345, A346, A300-600 and B737s will be taken out of operations in the next few years.”

However he admitted that if the delivery of Airbus’ A350 aircraft was subject to the same kind of delays as the A380, then some of the existing fleet would have to be held on to a little longer, as well as integrating the newly purchased B777-300ERs as quickly as possible.

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Report by Scott Carey

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