Thai Airways International has revised a fleet modernisation plan approved by its board last year and will seek government approval to order 20 Airbus A321s and lease 14 Boeing 787-9s.

The carrier's directors met on 16 January and agreed to "move ahead with the aircraft orders based on the 10-year plan that was approved by the board of directors in September 2007".

Since September, Thai has been seeking government approval to order 65 new aircraft as part of a $12.5 billion fleet expansion and modernisation. Approval was expected in late November, allowing it to negotiate firm purchase agreements with Airbus and Boeing.

But approval did not come in time, and there have since been elections in Thailand which have delayed the process because the party that won the most seats is still trying to put together a coalition.

Rather than continuing to wait for approval, Thai's board has decided the airline should lease 14 787-9s instead of buy them as originally planned because it will not be able to secure slots for delivery between 2012 and 2015 for purchases.

Executives said after the board meeting that the carrier expects to start seeking offers from aircraft lessors around the middle of this year and that the 787s will be used for "regional operations".

However, Thai is still planning to place orders directly with Airbus for 20 A321s, and its board has given approval for a downpayment to be made on the aircraft for deliveries between 2012 and 2017.

"The payment will be returned if the government does not approve the plan," it says.

"The 787-9 and A321 aircraft will replace those retired aircraft from Thai's fleet and be utilised to accommodate future growth in the next 10 years."

No mention is made of additional aircraft orders. Thai's request to the government in September was for the purchase of 65 narrowbodies and widebodies for delivery by 2017 and it had said these would be in addition to more than 12 Airbus A380s and Airbus A330-300s already on order.

Thai said 45 of the 65 aircraft were intended for replacement and the rest for growth, and it was looking at Boeing 747-8s or additional A380s in the 300- to 500-seat size category Airbus A350s and/or 787s in the 250- to 350-seat category and A320-family aircraft and/or Boeing 737s in the 150- to 250-seat category.

Thai's current fleet of more than 80 aircraft includes Airbus A300-600s, A330-300s, A340-500/600s, Boeing 737-400s, 747-400s and 777-200/200ER/300s.