What Happened To Phuket Air’s Boeing 747s?

Phuket Air had around a dozen Boeing 747s in its heyday to complement its fleet of 737s and 757s. After trimming its operations due to sanctions and lack of demand, the airline generated a lot of business by wet-leasing its planes out to airlines in need. After Phuket Air ceased trading in 2012, what exactly happened to its fleet of 747s?

What Happened To Phuket Air’s Boeing 747s?
Phuket Air had 11 Boeing 747 planes and a handful of 737s and 757s. Photo: Mark Tang via Wikimedia Commons

The Phuket Air 747 fleet

Phuket Air started off business as a modest regional airline in Thailand, operating with just two Boeing 737-200 planes. After expanding into the international market, the airline began acquiring its 747 fleet, which eventually grew to 11 planes. After Phuket Air was blacklisted by the European Union due to safety concerns in 2005, the airline resorted to leasing its planes out instead to stay afloat.

The Phuket Air 747 fleet consisted of:

What Happened To Phuket Air’s Boeing 747s?
One of the 747-200s that eventually made its way to Saudi Arabian Airlines via Phuket Air. Photo: Kambui via Wikimedia Commons

Phuket Air obtained its initial 747s with the intention to use them on international routes. The airline bought the 747-200s first, but it wasn’t long before they were leased out. After a series of problems plagued the airline through 2005, Phuket Air drastically reduced its operations and decided to lease the fleet out instead.

The airline’s main customer was Saudi Arabian Airlines (now known as Saudia), which wet-leased 747-200s and 747-300s from Phuket Air. Initially delivered on a short-term basis for the 2005-06 Hajj season, Saudi Arabian Airlines kept hold of two 747-200s and continued to lease other 747s. Phuket Air also counted Thai Star Airlines and Thai Sky Airlines among its customers.

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What became of the fleet?

Phuket Air ceased trading in 2012 before its fleet of Boeing 737, 747, and 757 planes met their fate. Some planes were scrapped altogether, while others are presently in storage with their future uncertain. Three of its planes were even preserved in an amusement park in Sidoarjo, Indonesia.

Lufthansa 747-400
Phuket Air’s 747-400s were sold to Wells Fargo and AerSale. Photo: Getty Images

Five of Phuket Air’s 747 planes were eventually scrapped, the last of which was broken up in 2018 at Don Mueang International Airport, Thailand. Two 747-200s are still in the possession of Saudia – they are presently in storage and haven’t been in operation for some time. Three of Phuket Air’s more recent 747-400s, acquired in 2011, were sold off – two went to Wells Fargo, and the third went to aircraft supplier AerSale.

What happened to Phuket Air?

In the fallout of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, the tourism industry across the region was decimated. Demand for flights immediately dried up, which hit Phuket Air hard. The airline was also struggling to maintain its fleet and was facing mounting concerns about its service and safety record. Consequently, the airline found itself blacklist by the European Union, now unable to operate any flights to Europe.

Phuket Air recruited the help of maintenance-firm Air France Industries, a partner of Air France, eventually convincing the European Union to lift its ban in 2007. The airline continued to maintain a close relationship with Saudi Arabian Airlines, leasing a number of its 747s to the Saudi carrier. Phuket Air eventually ceased trading in 2012 and the majority of its fleet ended up on the scrap pile.

Did you ever fly with Phuket Air? Let us know about your experience in the comments.