Thai Airways in Talks for Major Fleet Expansion

Thai Airways is presently in talks with Airbus, Boeing, and several leasing firms about the procurement of 90 new aircraft. This is part of the airline's strategy, based in Bangkok, to strengthen its fleet in anticipation of a surge in demand after the pandemic. The order for new aircraft is expected to primarily focus on expanding the airline's widebody long-haul fleet, although the addition of narrowbody aircraft is also being considered, according to airline insiders. 


The order is likely to encompass a variety of commitments from Thai Airways, from firm orders to options and purchase rights. The widebody order is anticipated to include up to 80 new long-haul jets. Concurrently, the airline plans to lease several smaller narrowbodies from various leasing companies. As per Bloomberg, Boeing is currently leading the race among manufacturers for the airline’s widebody order with its Boeing 787 Dreamliner. 


The company is reportedly preparing an order for 40 of these aircraft to extend its international network. The airline already operates eight of these aircraft. Its six 787-8s each have a seating capacity of 256 passengers, while its two 787-9s can seat 298 passengers, both operated in a two-class configuration. However, the remainder of the order is yet to be decided. It's worth noting that the airline also operates 16 Airbus A350s in its long-haul fleet, so this type could also play a significant role in the carrier’s fleet expansion plan. 


The airline is making a strong comeback after its financial situation was severely impacted by the pandemic, driven by a surge in demand in the Asia-Pacific air travel market. The airline has reported four consecutive profitable quarters over the past year, and its fleet expansion plans have been on hold while the company undergoes a financial restructuring plan, set to conclude in 2024. Despite the carrier consolidating its fleet in recent years due to increasing costs and a perceived lack of fleet planning cohesion, Thai Airways will be looking to solidify its forward planning around aircraft types that are already in operation within its fleet. The airline currently operates a fleet consisting of three A330-300s, 16 A350-900s, six Boeing 777-200ERs, 17 Boeing 777-300ERs, six 787-8s, and two 787-9s. The carrier also operates a short-haul fleet of 20 A320-200s, although ten are operated by the airline’s low-cost subsidiary, Thai Smile. However, as part of the restructuring process, Thai Smile will be integrated back into the parent carrier in the first quarter of 2024. Due to the extended lead times for new aircraft from the two major manufacturers as a result of airlines rushing to place orders recently, Thai Airways has already expressed its interest in leasing several aircraft until any new aircraft are delivered. The company plans to lease 23 aircraft by the end of 2025. The plan includes adding a further eight A350-900s, two A330-300s, a single Boeing 787-9, plus 12 Airbus A321s for short-haul operations.

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