Thai Airways has begun to reveal the shape of its future widebody fleet. According to local reports, the airline will not be bringing back any of its 747s, A380s, or even its A330-300s. With the 777-200s on sale, the airline will only operate the A350, 787, and 777-300ER for its future services.
Widebodies for the chop
Buried in the detail of Thai Airways’ announcement regarding its 905 pilot layoffs was some interesting detail on its future fleet. According to multiple reports in local media (including The Thaiger, Nation Thailand, CNBC Indonesia), the airline is permanently retiring a huge portion of its widebody fleet.
First to go are the Boeing 747s. Prior to COVID, THAI operated nine Boeing 747-400s, and all but one were placed into storage in March 2020. In December, the final member of the family, HS-TGF, was also marked as ‘stored.’ The original retirement plan saw these aircraft leaving the fleet in 2024. Now, it seems none of these planes will be coming back into service.
The departure of the Queen of the Skies from THAI’s fleet is not a complete surprise. Many other airlines have been phasing out the quadjet over the course of the last 12 months. What is a little more surprising, however, is that reports suggest neither the A380s nor the A330s will be coming back into service.
Pre-COVID, THAI had a fleet of 15 Airbus A330-300. With an average age of 10.2 years, some of these were very young aircraft. HS-TBG, for example, is just 7.9 years old. For almost a year now, all 15 have been parked up, and now it doesn’t look as if they will return. At least three are already in deep storage at Bordeaux, the same location you’ll find some of Etihad’s brand new A350-1000s.
THAI was never a big Airbus A380 operator, with just six in its fleet. Nevertheless, reports suggest that none will return to service for the Thai airline. Its six A380s range in age between 7.6 and 8.9 years old, so are very young planes. At the present time, all remain in Thailand; four at Bangkok Airport and two at U-Tapao–Rayong–Pattaya International Airport (UTP). Two are listed for sale.
For its future flying needs, it seems THAI will be relying on its 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A350s. Its 777-200s are destined to exit the fleet, but there is hope yet for the 777-300ER. 14 remain in THAI’s fleet, and two are still to be delivered, likely later this year.
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Rehab plan on the way
Thai Airways has one lifeline left: its long-awaited recovery plan. The airline had a restructuring approved by the Central Bankruptcy Court last year. At the time, the airline was estimated to have some 338.9 billion baht ($11.3 billion) of liabilities, with assets of just 298.9 billion baht ($9.98 billion).
Deadlines to present a recovery plan have come and gone, with THAI requesting extensions twice already. Now, it seems the Court is unwilling to grant any further extensions and is requesting a rehabilitation plan to be presented by March 2nd.
The problem for THAI is that it has multiple creditors and as many as seven debt rehabilitation planners working on its case. The Court previously said that the plan should be unanimously consented to, something which has so far been difficult to achieve. THAI has asked if it could receive just majority support, but the Court is insistent that the original agreement should be adhered to.
One way or the other, the future of Thai Airways will be much clearer in a month’s time.