Thai Airways International is entering “revival mode” after more than two years of “running on survival mode”, as its new chief executive vows to restore confidence in the beleaguered carrier.

Airline chief Chai Eamsiri, who was promoted in February to helm the carrier, adds that Thai would “rather focus on quality rather than quantity” in its recovery.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

He was speaking at the Aviation Festival Asia held in Singapore on 28 February. Eamsiri says the airlines is operating at around 65% pre-pandemic capacity, and is expected to reach about 90% in 2025.

Asked when he thinks the airline will return to pre-pandemic capacity, Eamsiri says the airline is in no rush to fully restore capacity. “It doesn’t mean we have to go back to [full capacity]. We [would rather] focus on quality rather than quantity…revenue, because we must be cautious when we choose the…right market…and network to put our assets to generate revenue”, says Eamsiri, who was the airline’s finance chief before his promotion.

His comments come as the airline sees “continued growth” in travel demand as it executes its rehabilitation plan. In its full-year financial results for 2022, the airline disclosed plans to expand its fleet with A350s and ramp up capacity to Mainland China.

It posted a a net loss of Bt252 million ($7.13 million) for the year to 31 December 2022, reversing the Bt55.1 billion profit in the year-ago period. The Star Alliance carrier also reported a pre-tax loss of Bt1.7 billion for the year, compared to 2021’s Bt52 billion profit. The airline’s financial performance in 2021 was aided by one-off gains realted its debt restructuring programme. 

Eamsiri says that the airline’s lowest point during the pandemic was when its cash flow ran dangerously low. “Traffic was down to almost zero at the time, we were running out of cash, we were doing every means to make the carrier survive,” he says.

“Now [markets] are coming back and we have to run the airline differently…I call this ‘revival mode’, where we come back with stronger financial statements and stronger operations. My vision for the next one or two years…is to bring back the confidence to our stakeholders…our creditors and customers,” adds Eamsiri.

As part of its restructuring plan, drafted after it filed for business rehabilitation amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the embattled carrier shed half its staff numbers and grounded several fleet types - including its Airbus A380s.

Eamsiri says his “target” for the near-term is to “bring Thai Airways back to the Top 10 carriers in the world…and to be the first choice carrier for our passengers”.

“We have to change the perception…and bring back confidence…but also take care of our balance sheet and financial statement,” says Eamsiri.