Carrier expected to add destinations and increase frequencies on routes, leading to long-range aircraft purchase

Thai Airways International is working on a potentially large order to be placed later this year to underpin a long-term expansion strategy to be revealed in the next few months.

"The decision on the aircraft and the mix we will require will be eventually decided by the conclusion of our long-term plan," says Thai president Kanok Abhiradee.

A final decision will be made when strategists finish the five-year plan, due by September, he says.

More aircraft are needed as an additional 21 international destinations, joining 54 served today, will be added over the next five years alongside more frequencies on existing routes.

"There will be quite a big portion of our requirement going towards regional [Asia] routes," says Kanok, who took over in May.

Thai's six ageing Airbus A300-600s and two A300-600Rs could also be up for replacement. Kanok will only reveal that Thai is considering retiring some aircraft.

Kanok's comments and commitment to the carrier's long-standing policy to reduce fleet diversity, combined with the fleet status and expansion plans, suggest that Airbus A330s or Boeing 777s will dominate the order. Operational needs will help dictate whether aircraft are purchased or leased, along with a requirement to balance acquisition costs to reduce the debt-to-equity ratio.

"The timing of delivery will determine whether we lease or buy them," says Kanok.

Conversion of at least some of its four Boeing MD-11s into freighters over the next five years is an option mooted early last year that Kanok hopes will bolster Thai's income from cargo, potentially adding a requirement for some large, longer-range passenger aircraft.

Source: Flight International