The Story Of Orient Thai Airlines: Thailand’s Other 747 Operator

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Thai Airways famously flew the Boeing 747 over the years. However, there was once another carrier in the country that operated the Queen of the Skies. Let’s take a look at the journey of Orient Thai Airlines before it ceased operations in 2018.

Orient Thai 747
Orient Thai Airlines operated different variants of the Boeing 747 type. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

Challenges from the beginning

Orient Thai performed both charter and scheduled services across Asia. Before liquidating just two years ago, it conducted its business from Don Mueang International Airport in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region.

There was trouble for the airline soon after it launched. AP News reported that the carrier was set to cease operations on January 9th because of operating losses. Udom Tantiprasongchai, Orient Thai’s managing director at the time, was quoted saying that the operator may continue providing charter flights after that date. However, it planned for regular operations to be shut down.

The business blamed the company’s downfall on the government failing to liberalize the commercial aviation industry. Ultimately, it felt that the country had a policy of protecting Thai Airways. The flag carrier of Thai was more than 90% owned by the Ministry of Finance.

Thai Airways
Thai Airways is still standing is the national carrier today. Photo: Getty Images

Nonetheless, Orient Thai and its domestic subsidiary One-Two-GO Airlines were two Thai carriers to bear a royal seal. This factor was supported by the owner, Udom Tantiprasonchai’s, close relationship with the King of Thailand.

A significant incident occurred on September 6th, 2007. One-Two-GO Airlines Flight 269 crashed in Phuket, causing 89 fatalities. Moreover, a publication was shared online highlighting excessive work hours and check ride fraud. Subsequently, both Orient Thai and One-Two-GO were ordered to suspend operations for 56 days.

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One-Two-GO
Both of the company’s airlines were facing issues with grounding during the course of their time in service. Photo: Lerdsuwa via Wikimedia Commons

The mission

Altogether, Orient Thai sought to provide the famous hospitality of its country with its flights. With this, it wanted to offer high-quality customer service throughout the company.

“By applying the widely renowned Thai hospitality and our rich heritage across our business disciplines and service offerings, Orient Thai Airlines (Orient Thai) upholds the mission of operating an airline business based on the “Do it by heart” philosophy,” Orient Thai said on its website

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“It, thus, brings us pride and honour to do the best of our capabilities in creating satisfaction for customers and bringing smiles to their faces – even on seemingly trivial matters.”

During its time of operations, the company prided itself on being mindful of its role as an airline. It wanted to be a trusted stakeholder in society.

“It is very important for the corporate world to be aware of their responsibility in our society,” Orient Thai added on its website.

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“They should have a mindset that a business has to be managed and operated in harmony with economy, society and the environment – in order to bring about sustainable development, as well as a peaceful and caring society.”

As a result, the carrier launched its ‘Orient Thai, We Share’ campaign, which was aimed to create a knowledge and experience sharing society “where mutual happiness is based on giving and love.” This project was just one of several social initiatives in place by the firm.

Orient Thai 747
The were high hopes for the operator even up until its final years. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

The key operations

A landmark moment happened on September 22nd, 2010. The carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 747-400. The unit, previously registered as N548MD arrived at the operator’s base as HS-STC. According to Planespotters.net, this plane formed part of a fleet of 25 747s that joined Orient Thai from 2001. The company also held Boeing 737, Boeing 767, and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft over the years.

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These planes helped the airline transport passengers across Thailand and Asia. It traveled to several destinations, but in the year before its demise, it focused on flights from its Don Mueang International Airport base to the Chinese airports of Changsha Huanghua International, Nanchang Changbei International, and Shanghai Pudong International.

According to Budget Airline Guide, over the years, destinations also included Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, Chiang Mai International, Chiang Rai, Hat Yai International, Phuket International, Trang, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Udon Thani. It also operated at Hong Kong International.

Orient Thai 737
The carrier had a mixture of narrowbody and widebody aircraft within its fleet. Photo: Alec Wilson via Wikimedia Commons

Mounting problems

In 2016, it was evident they Orient Thai had escalating financial issues, which were spreading internationally. In early May 2016, it was sanctioned for the second time within a few weeks by the Civil Aviation Administration of China following the violation of regulations.

According to the South China Morning Post, one of the airline’s Boeing 747s faced seizure by the airport authorities in Hong Kong. For months, the carrier failed to pay aeronautical and maintenance fees on the jumbo. As a result, the Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company (Haeco) and the airport operator were pushed to take action.

Engineers from Haeco removed and attempted to replace one of the engines. However, they halted work over a lack of payment, which was thought to be a six-figure amount. Moreover, during this period, another Orient Thai 747 was also waylaid in Taipei.

Thereafter, in September 2017, Orient Thai Airlines temporarily suspended all of its services. Two months later, it resumed operations after completing a recertification process with the Thai aviation authorities.

However, the return to the skies didn’t last long. By July 2018, all of Orient Thai Airlines’ services were suspended, and the carrier entered a restructuring process. Finally, operations were ceased on October 9th, 2018.

Altogether, for just over two decades, Orient Thai provided an alternative solution for travelers. There were significant challenges throughout its journey, but it showed its determination to provide a welcoming operation for passengers and the wider society.

What are your thoughts about the history of Orient Thai Airlines? Did you ever fly with the carrier over the years? Let us know what you think of the operator in the comment section.

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