Thai Airways will cease its special Bangkok to Los Angeles flight at the end of April. It follows on from the ending of the Bangkok-New York service in 2008 and it means that Thai will no longer serve the US non-stop.
The daily non-stop A340-500 flight to Los Angeles accommodates 215 passengers in a three-class layout: business, premium economy and economy classes. It will be cut to a five times a week service from February 1 and will cease altogether on April 30.
From May 1 the service (still using the same flight numbers TG794/TG795) will operate four times a week. But it will instead be rostered for a 292-seater B777-200ER (configured for business and economy class) and instead of flying non-stop, will touch down in Seoul’s Incheon airport, as confirmed on the carrier's website here.
As a result the flight time to the US will be extended from today’s 14 hrs 50 mins to 17 hrs 35 mins. On the way back, today’s time of 17 hrs 35 mins will become 19 hrs 40 mins.
The A340-500 is the only aircraft in Thai’s fleet which is capable of flying to Los Angeles non-stop. It will be missed because it offered passengers an economical, yet speedy way to reach the US West Coast. And Los Angeles is home to the largest Thai population in the US.
It is true that SIA still continues with its five times a week non-stop service to Los Angeles from Singapore. But SIA operates its A340-500s in an all-business class layout and so fares are higher.
The four-engined A340-500 was conceived in the days of cheap fuel. It was specifically designed to operate non-stop routes between SE Asia and the US. But it has become uneconomical to operate on these long routes at today’s oil prices.
SIA has made the plane work for its Los Angeles and New York routes by reconfiguring the cabin to accommodate a maximum of 100 business class passengers. But Thai has remained with its three class layout and this does not generate the same passenger revenue.
It is unclear what will happen to Thai’s fleet of four A340-500s. For some time now, the airline has been trying to find a buyer but the offers for these five-year old, but unfashionable (with today’s fuel costs) planes have been derisory.
Most probably they will continue to operate other Thai routes on an ad hoc basis before being retired from the fleet.
For more information visit thaiairways.com.
Report by Alex McWhirter