Thai Airways president and board disagreed on aircraft procurement plan

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A disagreement over aircraft procurement plans appears to be at the heart of the surprise dismissal of Thai Airways president Piyasvasti Amranand, announced on 21 May. 

While Amranand believes the carrier needs 38 new-generation aircraft as part of its long-term fleet plans, the carrier's board thinks otherwise.

Thai's chairman Ampon Kittiampon told the country's parliamentary transport committee recently that Amranand was dismissed because of a lack of communication over plans to procure aircraft between 2011 and 2012.

Thai media reports say Amranand had proposed to place an aircraft order without seeking the cabinet's approval. The board had disagreed with his proposal, preferring to postpone the acquisition to avoid affecting the carrier's financial status, it adds.

Calling the board's accusation of his communication issues "ludicrous", Amranand said the disagreement was over 38 aircraft "which haven't even been acquired".

These aircraft are to be delivered between 2018 and 2022, and the order needs to be placed soon as "slots are running out", Amranand told Flightglobal in an interview in Beijing last week.

He added that Thai will need nine Airbus A320neos for domestic and regional services, as well as long-haul aircraft such as Boeing 787s or Boeing 777-300ERs.

"Getting new aircraft of the right kind can make an enormous difference between profit and loss. New aircraft are more fuel-efficient than old ones, particularly given the high fuel costs," he said.

Amranand is also aware that Thai is usually cautious in its aircraft orders and that these could be staggered.

He also expressed disappointment that Thai's plan to form a low-cost joint venture with Tiger Airways failed to get the necessary governmental approvals, insisting that the carrier still needs to get into the low-cost market.

Low-cost carrier Nok Air, in which Thai has a 49% stake, also "hasn't been able to sufficiently help us stop the erosion of the domestic market", he added.

"It's a pity Thai Tiger did not materialise. I insist that we still need an ultra low-cost airline. That part of the market, we're missing out. Without Thai Tiger, what you see is Tiger flying more planes between Bangkok and Singapore, which has obviously affected Thai Airways," he added.

Amranand, who was appointed president in 2009 and had succeeded in turning around the loss-making flag carrier and helping it return to profitability over the last few years, will leave Thai on 21 June.

He had publicly taken the government to task several times, especially in their refusal to give the green light to form Thai Tiger, a move sources say had made him unpopular with many in the government.