Thai Airways (THAI) is actively working towards finalizing a deal to acquire a minimum of 30 new aircraft by the end of this year, with plans to potentially double its fleet of narrow-body jets over the next ten years, according to CEO Chai Eamsiri.
In an interview at THAI’s headquarters in Bangkok, Chai revealed that the airline will issue a ‘request for proposal’ to leading aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing next week, seeking to purchase 30 wide-body aircraft alongside an undisclosed number of narrow-body planes.
The objective behind this strategic move is to capitalize on the anticipated surge in post-pandemic travel and strengthen THAI’s regional routes. However, concerns have arisen regarding the planemakers’ ability to ramp up production to meet delivery targets.
Chai disclosed that THAI, which initiated bankruptcy protected debt restructuring totaling 400 billion baht (approximately US$11.17 billion) in 2021, currently operates a fleet of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft. Additionally, the airline has secured leases for twelve new A321neo aircraft, scheduled for delivery in 2025 and 2026.
These new aircraft will be deployed to enhance THAI’s presence in key medium-haul routes across Southeast Asia, India, southern China, and southern Japan.
Furthermore, Chai emphasized that the carrier’s wide-body fleet is expected to increase from its current count of 45 to 56 aircraft by the first quarter of next year. The additional jets will be acquired through dry lease contracts, typically excluding crew arrangements.
Chai clarified that this expansion is a short-term strategy, intended for long-distance intercontinental routes to destinations such as Australia and Europe, which have witnessed a strong recovery in demand since the pandemic.
THAI’s cabin factor, representing the percentage of seats sold, reached approximately 84% in the last quarter, and the CEO expressed optimism about promising advance bookings from markets like Europe.
Chai, who assumed the position of CEO in November last year after serving as Thai Airways’ chief financial officer, affirmed that the airline’s restructuring plan, driven by the pandemic’s impact, remains on track. The company aims to relist on the stock market by the first quarter of 2025.