Thai Airways president sacked because of 'communication issues'

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Thai Airways has confirmed that its president Piyasvasti Amranand was sacked early on Monday, 21 May 2012, because of "communication issues" with the company's board.

Piyasvasti's contract "was terminated" after a board meeting and he will leave on 21 June, says an airline spokeswoman.

"The Thai Airways board asked him to leave. The chairman said that this was not related to his performance. Instead, he has to leave as he has communication problems with the board. The board wants the management to be united with them," she says.

Chokchai Panyayong, the Star Alliance carrier's executive vice-president in-charge of planning, has been appointed as acting president, says the spokeswoman. He will work with Piyasvasti on a proper handover before 21 June, she adds.

A committee has been formed to search for Piyasvasti's successor and it will be led by a senior civil servant from the finance ministry. A timeline has not been set for a new appointment.

Amranand, a former government minister who was appointed as the airline's president in 2009, succeeded in turning around the loss-making flag carrier and helping it to return to profitability over the last few years.

He set in motion plans for the majority state-owned airline to rejuvenate its fleet and induct newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft in the coming years. A new full-service regional carrier Thai Smile, modelled after Singapore's SilkAir, is set to begin operations in July.

However, he also struggled to make headway in some of his other attempts to transform the Star Alliance carrier and make it more competitive against domestic and regional low-cost carriers.

One issue that he faced was the lack of support from some sections within the Thai government, especially in their refusal to give the green light to a plan to form a joint venture with Singapore's Tiger Airways. That led to Piyasvasti publicly taking the government to task several times, a tactic that sources say made him unpopular with many in the government and its representatives on the airline's board.