Thai Airways International is denying that it is contemplating pulling out of the recently established Star Alliance, and says that the company welcomes moves to expand the membership to include other Asia-Pacific carriers.

The airline issued the denial statement in response to local reports that it was facing "heavy pressure" to withdraw from the global alliance. Thai admits that a recommendation for a pull-out was made by some members of the carrier's management, during a board meeting on 25 September, but describes this as "personal opinion" rather than official policy.

Star, which also includes Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS and United Airlines, is known to be in discussion with a number of other Asian carriers to join the alliance, including Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Cathay Pacific Airways. SIA's two new alliance partners Ansett Australia and Air New Zealand are also being tipped to join, as is possibly All Nippon Airways.

The prospect of new Asian carriers being admitted has cast doubt on Thai's role in the alliance. Some carriers are known to be dissatisfied with the Thai Government's slowness to privatise and restructure the national carrier, as well as its decision to shelve construction of a new airport for Bangkok.

Thai states that it is "fully committed to implementing all the agreements reached under the alliance," but adds: "This has to be done within the limitations of Thai's status as a state enterprise. As the airline proceeds with privatisation, these limitations will be gradually reduced."

The airline, in the meantime, considers it "-quite reasonable for other members of the Star Alliance to seek to expand the Alliance membership so that the overall progress can continue with other partners." Thai Airways International has now referred the matter to consultancy Booz Allen & Hamilton for further study.

Source: Flight International