Thai Airways is currently engaged in discussions with Airbus, Boeing, and various leasing companies about acquiring 90 new aircraft. The negotiations are part of the Bangkok-based airline’s plan to bolster its fleet in response to surging post-pandemic demand.
Any such order for new planes is expected to focus predominantly on expanding the carrier’s widebody long-haul fleet. However, narrowbody additions are also being considered, according to sources within the airline.
The order is expected to include a range of commitments by Thai Airways, ranging from firm orders to options and purchase rights. The widebody order is expected to include the addition of up to 80 new long-haul jets. At the same time, the airline also plans to lease several smaller narrowbodies from various leasing companies.
As reported by Bloomberg, Boeing is currently the frontrunner in the competition between the manufacturers for the airline’s widebody order with its Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The company is reportedly lining up an order for 40 of the type to expand its international network.
The airline already operates eight of the type. Its six 787-8s each seat 256 passengers, while its pair of 787-9s seat 298 passengers, both operated in a two-class configuration.
However, the balance of the order is said to be undecided. It should be noted that the airline also operates 16 Airbus A350s in its long-haul fleet, so the type could also feature heavily as part of the carrier’s fleet expansion plan.
The airline is bouncing back strongly after its financial position was ravaged by the pandemic, buoyed by soaring demand in the Asia-Pacific air travel market. The airline has posted four consecutive profitable quarters over the past year, and its fleet expansion plans have previously been on hold while the company undergoes a financial restructuring plan, which is due to conclude in 2024.
Although the carrier has been consolidating its fleet in recent years due to rising costs and a perceived lack of fleet planning cohesion, Thai Airways will be looking to crystallize its forward planning around aircraft types that are already flown 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 a pair of 787-9s.
The carrier also operates a short-haul fleet of 20 A320-200s, although ten are operated by the airline’s low-cost arm, Thai Smile. However, as part of the restructuring process, Thai Smile will be merged back into the parent carrier in Q1 of 2024.
Due to lengthening lead times for new aircraft from the two major manufacturers due to airlines rushing to place orders recently, Thai Airways has already declared 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.