Thai Airways has today confirmed it will postpone A380 service on the Bangkok to London route.
The superjumbo had been scheduled to operate one of Thai's daily flights with effect from December 1. But the carrier now says that the A380 will not serve the London route until October 30 of next year – a delay of 11 months.
As we reported yesterday, airline booking displays were not listing the A380 for the London route and this fuelled speculation that there had been a change of plan by Thai managers at their Bangkok head office.
Thai regrets the plane change, which it claims is down to "important technical modifications".
In place of the rostered A380, Thai will be operating one of its retrofitted B747s with the second daily flight being operated by a more modern A340-600.
The plane swap will come at an awkward time. December is the peak month for travel between Europe, SE Asia and Australasia. It's a time when the airlines can easily sell all their seats. Thousands of travellers will already have made bookings thinking they are going to fly the A380.
Right now, Thai operates twice daily B747-400s on the London to Bangkok route so from December it will actually have a smaller market presence.
The B747-400 accommodates nine passengers in first, 40 in business and 325 in economy class. On the other hand, the A340-600 seats eight in first, 60 in business and 199 in economy class.
As we mentioned yesterday, competition on the busy routes linking Europe with Bangkok is ferocious.
Thailand is primarily a leisure rather than a business destination and it is one where the Gulf carriers (because of their keen pricing and widespread networks) have made great inroads.
One carrier alone, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, carried almost 700,000 passengers in and out of Bangkok in 2012 (a 38 per cent increase in carryings over 2011) making this its busiest route.
But if and when Thai does bring its A380 into London Heathrow next year it will be able to offer passengers the latest facilities in T2, which opens in June 2014.