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​Thai frets about reputational damage from grounded 787s

Thai Airways International is concerned about the reputational damage caused by persistent engine issues with its Boeing 787-8 fleet.

Four of the carrier’s eight 787-8s are ground awaiting spare parts for their Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, says Krittaphon Chantalitanon, vice-president of alliances and commercial strategy at Thai.

“We have to do a lot of schedule changing,” he says. “There have been some delays and we will extend the phasing out period of certain types of aircraft, namely the 747-400 and possibly earlier versions of the 777, the -200s and non-ER -300s.”

The airline is in discussion with R-R regarding compensation, but Chantalitanon feels that money is not the entire issue.

“Compensation is one thing, but the impact, to be polite, to the brand, for customer satisfaction, and everything that comes with it, is relative to the compensation. I'm more concerned with the impact to the brand and everything else rather than the ultimate financial figures.”

Issues with the both intermediate-pressure turbine and IP compressor blades in the Trent 1000 have been an problem with both Thai and other operaters throughout the world, periodically grounding portions of the world’s Trent-powered 787 fleet.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Thai operates six 787-8s and two -9s. Its eight 747-400s have an average age of 19.6 years, its five 777-200s 21.8 years, and its six 777-300s 19 years.

“Rolls have been very accommodating for a lot of the issues, but the matter remains unresolved. At the moment we have four 787-8s grounded, which comprise fifty percent of our Dreamliner fleet. We are working together with Rolls to resolve this issue as quickly as possible, but you never know if [aircraft five will be grounded].”

Chantalitanon made the remarks in an interview with FlightGlobal at the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) Assembly of Presidents, which was held recently on the resort island of Jeju, South Korea.

The carrier is also working on its future fleet plan, and hopes to receive cabinet approval by the end of 2018 for a fresh aircraft order. The carrier does not have a fixed number yet, but it is likely to be 22 or 23, of which two thirds will be widebodies, and one third narrowbodies.

A key driver of its decision for the new types will be the delivery slots on offer.

“Because of ongoing issues with engine parts, and pending the finalisation of future fleet plan, we need to extend the life of the current metal for a short while, until everything becomes clearer. Hopefully by the end of this year we'll have a more definite time frame of what, when, and where.”

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