Thai Airways May Bring Their Ageing Airbus A340’s Out Of Retirement

It’s been five years since six Thai Airways A340-600s were taken out of service and parked at Pattaya’s U-Tapao airport – 147km outside of Bangkok. According to Forbes, the aircraft have been accumulating maintenance charges as they wait for a buyer to take them from the airline. But now, the Thai government is advising the Thai flag carrier to consider putting these quadjets back into service after an update of the cabin interior.

Thai Airways Airbus A340-600
The A340 has high operational costs which would be challenging for the airline. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

Old planes, new plans?

Forbes goes on to report that Thai management has been evaluating fleet options since September, when the airline’s board rejected a plan to buy 38 aircraft. With the airline sitting on a US$3.2 billion debt with growing losses the board is keen to reduce upfront costs.

The suggestion of bringing these jets back comes from Deputy Minister of Transport Thaworn Sennam. He adds that the airline should evaluate retrofitting the A340-600s with new interiors and then assigning the aircraft to long-haul routes.

Originally, Thai had planned to operate the A340-600s into the 2020s. However, this was changed in 2015 as they were scheduled for retirement and then sale. Apparently finding a buyer has not been so easy.

Challenges to the plan

Here are just some of the issues with the cabin that Thai would face in bringing back the A340s into their fleet:

  • The aircraft need their interior updated for Thai to have a chance of generating profitable yields.
  • Thai’s A340-600s are in their “original configuration”: angled lie-flat seats without direct aisle access in business class.
  • This contrasts with Thai’s newer planes – A380s, A350s and 777-300ERs – which all have lie-flat business class seats with direct aisle access.
  • Changing aircraft interiors can take over a year. This is because of procurement, then manufacturing, finally followed by installation, all at a high cost.

In addition to cabin renewal challenges, there are the challenges of higher operating costs as the A340-600 is an older and less efficient design compared to the newer aircraft that Thai wants to buy or lease. This is because the A340-600 has four engines compared to newer twin-engine designs.

Thai Airways
Thai Airways’ A350 is far more fuel efficient than the A340 as a newer twinjet. Photo: Airbus

How serious is the suggestion?

The re-activation of the A340-600s is still uncertain. In fact, Forbes adds that Thai’s A340-500 and -600s are a contentious issue for the airline’s influential cabin crew union.

In fact, the group sees the aircraft as an example of “management incompetence: expensive assets used briefly and then idled for years with no sale prospects”.

Thai Airways Airbus A340-600
Thai retired A340 from their routes in March 2015. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Conclusion

We will try to keep on top of this issue – waiting to see if the airline goes ahead with the plan.

How would you feel about Thai bringing back their A340s? They may not be the most fuel-efficient aircraft but a new and refreshed cabin sounds like it would provide a great experience for travelers! Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Blair

Is there a chance Thai would re-start LAX-BKK direct service again?

Ghinthaka

Always love the quad jets.

Sharif Alamgir Hossain

I believe 4 engine jets are safer in case of an engine failure & it can still continue to next stop having 3 more live engines. But in case of twin engine jets if one engine fails it’s an emergency & has to land at nearest suitable airport. So I support A-340-500 or 600 to fly again.

Henning

They are probably more economical to operate than the batch of 20 year old 747-400 they operate, and they only been used for 8-10 years. The A340 is also very popular because of its 2-4-2 config in the economy cabin.

Leslie Hlatshwayo

Bring them back, beautiful things. What can beat an A340-600? waw!. The A350 is just ugly

Lamaat

😍😍😍😍

Lamaat

Love A340, I hope they bring these beauties back soon

Barnaby Dunkin

One thing which is not addressed in all of this ‘salesy’ and aesthetics based thinking is are there enough spare parts and components from the OEM to allow for this move? Logistics and supply chain issues are not an issue until it comes to the fact that the Airbus A340 is no longer in production: In the event of a major component having to be removed like the Airbus A340-541 empennage at Melbourne International the frame is almost certainly a knock-out / one for cannibalisation. As the ‘other’ most practical way of obtaining parts efficiently will the carrier be forced… Read more »

Vince

Indeed. Another “brilliant” idea by the incompetent management. Thai Airways is already operating the A350 which is at least 15% cheaper to operate than the A340.
Buying/leasing the A330ceo for Asia Pacific operations and relocating the larger more capable A350 on long haul operations makes more cents than bringing back the A340.

Peter

This plane can be a money spinner IF IT’S FILLED. And, since they already have it, why not use it?
They should do something creative with it, such as providing direct flights from Europe to Phuket.

Eduardo

Very nice!