Thai Airways International Public Co., ltd., trading as THAI (SET: THAI, Thai: บริษัท การบินไทย จำกัด (มหาชน) is the flag carrier airline of Thailand. Formed in 1988, the airline has its corporate headquarters in Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Chatuchak District, Bangkok, and primarily operates from Suvarnabhumi Airport. THAI is a founding member of the Star Alliance. The airline is the second-largest shareholder of the low-cost carrier Nok Air with a 21.80 per cent stake, and it launched a regional carrier under the name Thai Smile in the middle of 2012 using new Airbus A320 aircraft.
From its hub at Suvarnabhumi Airport and secondary hub at Phuket International Airport, Thai (including subsidiaries) flies to 84 destinations in 37 countries, using a fleet of over 90 aircraft. The airline was once the operator of two of the world's longest non-stop routes between Bangkok and Los Angeles and New York City, but due to high fuel prices, the withdrawal of aircraft, luggage weight limits and rising airfares, the airline abandoned all non-stop US services in 2012 indefinitely. As of 2013, services between Bangkok and Los Angeles were served via Incheon International Airport near Seoul, however, it ended its service to the US on 25 October 2015. Thai's route network is dominated by flights to Europe, East Asia, and South/Southwest Asia, though the airline serves five cities in Oceania. Thai was the first Asia-Pacific airline to serve London Heathrow Airport. Among Asia-Pacific carriers, the company has one of the largest passenger operations in Europe. As of the end of 2018, 1,438 of its 22,054 employees were pilots.:80.
Thai Airways has its origins in 1960 as a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which held a 30 per cent share of the new company valued at two million Thai baht, and Thailand's domestic carrier, Thai Airways Company (Thai: เดินอากาศไทย). The purpose of the joint venture was to create an international wing for the domestic carrier Thai Airways Company. SAS also provided operational, managerial, and marketing expertise, with training assistance aimed at building a fully independent national airline within the shortest possible time. Thai nationals, through training and experience, were gradually able to assume full managerial responsibility and the number of expatriate staff duly decreased, with expatriates accounting for less than one per cent of staff based in Thailand in 1987. The carrier's first revenue flight was on 1 May 1960. Flights were operated to nine overseas Asian destinations from Bangkok[when?].
The airline's first intercontinental services using Douglas DC-8s started in 1971 to Australia, and then to Europe the following year. A number of the larger Douglas DC-10 wide-body tri-jet was acquired in the later 1970s. Services to North America commenced in 1980.
On 1 April 1977, after 17 years of capital participation by SAS, the Thai government bought out the remaining 15 per cent of SAS-owned shares and Thai became an airline owned by the Thai government. As of 2019, the company is 51 per cent owned by the Thai Ministry of Finance. Forty-seven per cent of its shares trade on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
1980s and 1990s: merger with Thai Airways Company
On 1 April 1988, then-Prime Minister Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, in seeking to have a single national carrier, merged the international and domestic operations of the two companies to form the present company, Thai Airways International. On 25 June 1991, the new Thai listed its shares on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and offered them to the public. The Thai public offering of shares is the largest ever undertaken in the country.
In 1997 Thai Airways planned a privatization program, the first in Thai history.
2000s: Airline brand renewal and financial difficulties
Throughout the 2000s (decade), Thai aggressively continued its route network expansion with new services to Chengdu, Busan, Chennai, Xiamen, Milan, Moscow, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Johannesburg (later suspended) and Oslo.
Using the Airbus A340-500s it acquired in 2005, Thai commenced non-stop flights from Bangkok to New York, its first non-stop services to North America. The airline later converted existing one-stop services to Los Angeles into non-stop services using the same aircraft type. Citing very high fuel costs, Thai discontinued the New York service in July 2008, even though the airline had been able to fill 80 per cent of the seats. The service to Los Angeles was again reverted to one-stop service via Seoul on 1 May 2012, leaving the airline without a non-stop service between Thailand and North America. The A340s used have been phased out using the Boeing 777-200ER for the Bangkok–Seoul–Los-Angeles route. Although the previous A340 used for non-stop services was not subject to ETOPS, the phasing in of the 777 with one-stop service (with the 330 minute rule) will be indefinite for years to come; the airline has no plans to pursue newer North America destinations (e.g., Houston, TX, USA) or purchase the Boeing 747-8 for trans-Pacific routes since Thai Airways is operating the Airbus A380.
In 2006, THAI moved its hub operations to the new Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Coinciding with the arrival of new aircraft during the mid-2000s, as well as its new hub airport in Bangkok, the airline launched a brand renewal by introducing a new aircraft livery, new aircraft seating, and revamped ground and air services.
During the late-2000s, Thai's aggressive growth was hampered by a combination of internal and external factors, including a spike in fuel prices, domestic political conflict in Thailand, and the global economic crisis of the late-2000s. In 2008, after achieving profitability for the previous 40 years, THAI recorded a loss for the first time in its history of around 21 billion baht (US$675 million). The airline cited high fuel costs and Thailand's political situation. As of Q2 2009, after a series of restructuring initiatives, including a two-year deferral of its Airbus A380 deliveries, the carrier returned to a net profit of 2.5 billion baht. It has since received its first A380s and commenced service to Hong Kong on 6 October 2012.
2010s: Fleet renewal and expansion
While celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2010, Thai, spearheaded by Piyasvasti Amranand, its president and a former energy minister, charted new plans for the airline's future, including aircraft fleet renewal and an upgrade of existing services. Thai has since placed orders for a number of aircraft, including the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, and it has also launched a refurbishment of its Boeing 747 and 777 cabins. Mindful of rising fuel costs, the airline has now phased-out the most inefficient aircraft, including its Airbus A340-500s. The airline took delivery of its first Airbus A380 aircraft in the second half of 2012, intending to eventually deploy the aircraft on its core European routes.
THAI has also resumed its network expansion with the resumption of flights to Brussels, in addition to a new non-stop flight from Stockholm and Copenhagen to Phuket. At the same time, the Greek debt crisis caused Thai to suspend its services to Athens.
As part of THAI's broader growth strategy in the region, THAI launched a regional carrier with light-premium services, Thai Smile which operates the narrow-bodied Airbus A320-200 on regional and domestic routes. The new airline initiated commercial operations in July 2012, after its first A320s were received.
Thai expects to be the first carrier in Asia to fly commercial flights using biofuels. The carrier launched the initiative with experimental flights in December 2011 as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility program, otherwise known as "Travel Green". Thaihopes to stimulate sustained biofuel production in Thailand by working with Thai government agencies and regional corporate partners, such as PTT Public Company Limited. The effort aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in regional air travel as well as position Thailand to be the "bio hub" of Asia.
All Thai airlines are presently (April 2015) under safety review following a negative audit from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The general implications and possible effect on code share flights are reviewed by Watson, Farley and Williams.
On 1 December 2015, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced their reassessment of the safety rating for Thailand, downgrading it from a Category 1 to Category 2 country. The FAA stated, "U.S. and Thai aviation officials have a long-standing cooperative relationship and both our countries work continuously to meet the challenge of ensuring aviation safety. A Category 2 International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) rating means that the country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority—a body equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters—is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures. With a Category 2 rating, Thailand's air carriers can continue existing routes to the United States but they won't be allowed to establish new routes to the United States."
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) declined to blacklist any Thai carriers following a review of certain carriers in November 2015. Thai later received third country operator (TCO) certification from the EU, effective 15 December 2015, authorizing the carrier to continue flying to the EU for the foreseeable future.
In July 2015, Thai entered a promotional deal with South Korean pop group Girls' Generation, including an appearance in the music video for their song "Party". Also in July 2015, Thai announced the planned cancellation of service to Los Angeles after 25 October 2015, marking the end of US service.
In June 2016, as a result of its restructuring plan, Thai announced it would commence thrice-weekly Tehran service. The service ended on 28 February 2018) and resumed Moscow service from October and November 2016 respectively. The airline also considered a return to the US using Boeing 787-9 by 2017. However, Charamporn Jothikastira, THAI president, turned down the possibility of returning to Los Angeles or New York City due to losses in the past. Instead, Thai considered other cities such as San Francisco and Seattle. While Thai Smile, its subsidiary, is planning for new regional routes such as Cebu, Medan, Surabaya, Chandigarh, Shantou and Tianjin.
In August 2016, Thai introduced new route network management system. Following implementation, many flight schedules were synchronized, allowing international passengers to transit via Bangkok more conveniently. Thai planned to adjust 13 routes schedules mainly in Japan, Australia, and India. The routes that have been announced are Perth and Brisbane.
In the fourth quarter of 2016, Thai Smile vowed to resume its suspended routes and Thai's terminated regional routes which are Da Nang, Kota Kinabalu, Luang Prabang and Mandalay. Also the airline has considered launching new services to Hangzhou and Zhengzhou.
Rolls-Royce engine procurement
In January 2017 a four-year investigation by the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) came to light. It determined that aircraft engine-maker Rolls-Royce had paid bribes to "...agents of the Thai state and employees of Thai Airways..." in order to secure orders for the Rolls-Royce T800 engine for its Boeing 777-200s. Rolls-Royce admitted to the charge and agreed to pay penalties. The illicit payments of US$36.38 million took place between 1991 and 2005. Bribes were paid in three tranches:
The government rejected calls for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to use his Section 44 powers to cut through red tape in the investigation of the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal. Response from the Thai government's National Anti-Corruption Commission to information provided by the SFO, is said to be "tepid" and "...could be more embarrassing than the scandal itself."
As of October 2019, Thai's accumulated debt amounted to more than 100 billion baht, prompting a deputy transport minister to question "...how serious the airline's executives were in dealing with the worsening financial situation."
In 2018, Thai's net loss increased to 11.6 billion baht from 2.11 billion in 2017.
For calendar year 2017, Thai posted revenues of 190,535 million baht, net income of (2,072) million baht, and total assets of 280,775 million baht. In the first half of 2018, Thai reported a net loss of 381 million baht.
|Turnover (m baht)||202,606||163,875||184,270||194,342||216,743||207,711||203,889||192,591||181,446||191,946|
|Net Profit / Loss (m baht)||−21,379||7,344||14,744||−10,197||6,229||−12,047||−15,612||−13,068||15||−2,072|
|passenger change year-on-year||1.2%||1.7%||1.3%||12.1%||4.3%||11.2%||11.%||4.7%||10.3%|
|Passenger load factor (%)||68.2||65.8||73.6||70.4||76.6||74.1||68.9||72.9||73.4||79.2|
|Aircraft (at year end)||89||91||90||89||95||100||102||95||95||100|
At the commencement of 2014, Thai was subject to a rumor that the company would declare bankruptcy in May 2014. Listed on the Thai stock exchange, the company is a state enterprise in which the finance ministry holds a stake of up to 51 per cent. In a statement to the media, Chokchai Panyayong, the airways' senior executive vice-president and acting president, stated: "Thai has never once defaulted. Despite its loss in the third quarter of last year, the company still has high liquidity and has a clear plan for debt repayment." He further explained that the carrier's loss of 6.35 billion baht in the third quarter of last year was the result of the company's unsuccessful plan to attract more customers. Thai's financial loss for 2014 was reported to be at 15.6 billion baht (US$479 million), 3.6 billion baht higher than the previous year. Thai blamed declining tourist arrivals from North Asia owing to political unrest in Thailand during the year, but capacity figures from Flightglobal's Innovata Network Data service suggest that Europe was probably an even bigger drain on the bottom line during the year.
2018 recovery plan
Thai's new management team has set itself the goal of returning to "sustainable profitability" by 2022 as well as joining the ranks of the world's top five airlines. The centerpiece of its turnaround plan is its proposed 100 billion baht purchase of 23 new aircraft. THAI's chairman pointed to its aging fleet as being expensive to maintain. THAI's 89 aircraft have an average age of 9.3 years compared with competitor Singapore Airlines average age of 7.6 years. Thai's chairman said the company has not yet determined "...what aircraft and type we need to buy because we have yet to finalize financing."
Thai's recovery plans include teaming up with state enterprises Airports of Thailand PCL (AOT) and Krung Thai Bank (KTB) to help drive the carrier to profitability. The team's "first task" is to deliver more tourists to 55 "second-tier" provinces. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will assist the team by creating a new campaign, "More Local", to drive tourism to less visited corners of the nation. AOT, which operates Thailand's six international airports, will invest 220 billion baht in infrastructure to increase airport capacity from 2018's 80 million passengers to 185 million in ten years. KTB's contribution to the effort consists of creating new payment solutions for tourists and ramping up travel promotions.
Political interference, corruption and abuse of authority have been persistent issues in Thai's management. Speaking at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, former president Piyasvasti Amranand, who had been abruptly dismissed in May 2012, cited Thai's procurement of A340-500s (three of which had since been grounded) as examples of mismanagement influenced by corruption and political meddling, resulting in operational losses.
|Airbus A330-300||12||—||—||36||263||299||One aircraft (HS-TBD) painted in Star Alliance livery.|
|3||31||263||294||New regional configuration.|
|3||10||40||325||375||One aircraft (HS-TGW) painted in Star Alliance livery.|
|Boeing 777-300||6||—||—||34||330||364||One aircraft (HS-TKF) painted in the Special Royal Barge livery.|
Fleet development plans
THAI's fleet development plans, as of December 2011, for the period 2012–2022 is in three phases:
On 13 June 2011, Thai's Board of Directors announced it would purchase 15 aircraft and acquire the remaining 22 on operating leases. The purchased planes include 14 Boeing 777-300ERs, to be delivered in 2014 and 2015, four Airbus A350-900s (2016 and 2017). The leased planes include six 787-8s and two 787-9s from US lessor International Lease Finance (ILFC). The 8 series will be delivered in 2014 and 2015, while the 9 series will be delivered in 2017. In addition, Thai will lease six A350-900s from Aviation Lease and Finance, to be delivered in 2017, and two A350-900s from CIT Aerospace International, which will deliver the aircraft in 2016. The airline will also lease six A320-200s from RBS Aerospace International, to be delivered in 2012 and 2013. All the operating leases have terms of 12 years each.
On 20 January 2016 Thai Airways International PCL announced plans to postpone taking delivery of 14 planes for three years to reduce operating costs as the national airline restructured. The 14 planes include 12 Airbus A350s, two of which were due to be delivered in 2016, and two Boeing 787s.
On 12 February 2016 Thai Airways announced it will continue to ground 10 Airbus A340s it had not been able to sell because flying the four-engine planes is not cost-effective, even after fuel prices plunged more than 40 per cent in the previous year. Besides trying to offload the planes, which were used previously for long-haul destinations such as Frankfurt, the money-losing airline has cut routes and sold assets to bolster its balance sheet and operations.
In 2017, Thai took delivery of seven new aircraft and decommissioned two leased Airbus A330-300s bringing its active fleet to 100 as of 31 December 2017.
|Aircraft||Total||Year Introduced||Year Retired||Replacement||Notes|
|Airbus A300B4||13||1977||1998||Airbus A300-600R|
|Airbus A300-600R||21||1985||2014||Airbus A330-300|
|Airbus A310-200||2||1988||2001||Airbus A300-600R||Transferred from Thai Airways Company.|
|Airbus A310-300||2||1990||1993||Airbus A300-600R|
|Airbus A320-200||5||2014||2016||None||All transferred to Thai Smile.|
|Airbus A340-500||3||2005||2012||Airbus A350-900||Two stored.|
|1||Sold to Royal Thai Air Force.|
|Airbus A340-600||6||2005||2015||Airbus A350-900||All aircraft are stored.|
|Boeing 737-200||3||1988||1993||Boeing 737-400||Transferred from Thai Airways Company.|
|Boeing 747-200B||6||1979||1997||Boeing 747-400|
|Boeing 747-200SF||1||1996||1999||Boeing 747-400BCF|
|Boeing 747-300||2||1987||2007||Boeing 747-400|
|Boeing 747-400BCF||2||2012||2015||None||Converted from passenger Boeing 747-400.|
|BAe 146-100||1||1989||1991||Boeing 737 Classic|
|BAe 146-200||1||1989||1989||Boeing 737 Classic|
|BAe 146-300||9||1989||1998||Boeing 737 Classic|
|Canadair Challenger CL-601-3A-ER||1||1991||Unknown||Unknown|
|Convair 990 Coronado||2||1962||Unknown||None||Operated by Scandinavian Airlines.|
|Douglas DC-6B||7||1960||1964||None||First aircraft in fleet.|
Leased from Scandinavian Airlines.
|Douglas DC-8-33||7||1970||1978||None||Leased from International Airlease AB.|
|Douglas DC-8-62||6||1972||1984||None||Leased from Scandinavian Airlines.|
|Douglas DC-8-63||4||1974||1985||Airbus A300|
|Douglas DC-8-61CF||2||1977||1979||None||Leased from Seaboard World Airlines.|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-9-41||3||1970||1972||None||Leased from Scandinavian Airlines.|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30||6||1975||1987||Airbus A310|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30ER||3||1987||1998||Airbus A310||Disposed to Northwest Airlines.|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-11||4||1991||2005||Boeing 777-200ER||Disposed to UPS Airlines.|
|Short 330||4||1988||1992||Boeing 737 Classic||Transferred from Thai Airways Company.|
|Short 360||2||1988||Unknown||Boeing 737 Classic||Transferred from Thai Airways Company.|
|Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle III||15||1964||Unknown||None||Leased from Scandinavian Airlines.|
Aircraft maintenance centres
Thai maintains three maintenance centres, at U-Tapao International Airport, Don Mueang International Airport, and Suvarnabhumi Airport. The centers service aircraft belonging to other airlines in addition to Thai aircraft.
Thai Technical is certified internationally by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Joint Aviation Authorities, the European Aviation Safety Agency Part-145 Maintenance Organisation, and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau for facilities at Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport. It has also received its Requalifier Identification Certificate from the United States Department of Transportation for its operations at U-Tapao International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Thai initiated a program entitled "The Most Hygienic In-Cabin Environment Program" with an emphasis on air quality, surface cleanliness, and food safety. The program includes removal of all in-flight disposable materials after flights, sterilization and fumigation of all cabin equipment, and inspection of the air-circulation system. A special audit process is also carried out for the cleaning and sanitization of aircraft systems by a team of specialists. These measures are applied to the entire Thai fleet.
Thai was the first airline to install hospital-grade air-filter True HEPA, capable of intercepting up to 99.99 per cent of dust particles and microorganisms on every flight. The World Health Organization awarded the airline a plaque for the implementation of its in-cabin management system in 2004. It was the first award of its kind to be presented to a private organization.
Royal First Class (First Class)
Thai's Royal First Class seats, manufactured by B/E Aerospace, were introduced with the arrival of the Airbus A340-600. These seats are also available on selected Boeing 747-400 aircraft. A new version of Royal First Class seating in a suite or enclosure configuration is available on Thai's Airbus A380-800 aircraft and select Boeing 747-400 aircraft since the 2012 refurbishment.
Royal Silk Class (Business Class)
Thai's Royal Silk Class seats have been installed on all Thai aircraft. The angled shell design seats have 150 to 160 cm (58 to 62 in) of pitch and a width of 51 to 55 cm (20 to 21.5 in). Prior to refurbishment, Royal Silk seats on 777-300ERs are sold as premium economy class seats on Scandinavian routes and Moscow. A new set of Royal Silk seats are available on THAI's Airbus A380-800s, Boeing 777-300ERs, Boeing 787-8s, and Airbus A350-900s. After the delivery of the new 787-9s to THAI, the Zodiac Cirrus or Reverse Herringbone seats are now available on board the new aircraft.
Thai's Economy Class offers between 81 and 86 cm (32 and 34 in) seat pitch depending on the aircraft type. Personal screens with AVOD are present on the Airbus A380-800, Airbus A330-300, Airbus A350-900, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777 (200, 200ER, 300 and 300ER), Boeing 787-8/-9 aircraft.
Royal Orchid Plus
Royal Orchid Plus is Thai's frequent flyer program. It has a membership of over two million people. There are two types of miles which can be accrued with a Royal Orchid Plus account: Eligible Qualifying Miles (EQM) on flights of THAI and its subsidiaries and codeshare and Star Alliance partners as well as Qualifying Miles (Q Miles) are the miles flown as well as the bonus miles earned from travel in particular classes of service on THAI and Star Alliance airlines. Royal Orchid Plus miles are earned based on the paid class of travel. There are four tiers in the Royal Orchid Plus program: Member, Silver, Gold and Platinum, depending on the Q Miles earned in one calendar year.
Accidents and incidents
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