Thai Airways International has begun to take a more serious look at possible orders for Airbus A350s or Boeing 787s for use on services to Europe and North America, writes Nicholas Ionides in Bangkok.

Speaking to Flight International at Bangkok's soon-to-be-opened Suvarnabhumi airport, president Apinan Sumanaseni said: "We are studying the [A350] compared with the 787-9," adding that they are "serious" studies.

He said, however, that the carrier is in no rush to make a decision on either type and no formal request for proposals has been sent to either manufacturer. Separately, he said the airline is not concerned about delays to the Airbus A380 programme.

Thai has six A380s on firm order, but Apinan said first deliveries to the Star Alliance carrier have only been pushed back by around a month, to early in 2009, compared with six or seven months for first operators Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Qantas Airways.

The airline ordered the six A380s in 2004. Deliveries were originally due to begin late in 2008 and continue through 2009.

Wallop Bhukkanasut, executive vice-president of Thai's commercial department, also said the carrier's studies of the A350 against the 787 cover potential orders for aircraft to either operate alongside its six Airbus A340-600s or to eventually replace them. He added that the long-range A350-900 and 787-9 variants are being studied for use mainly for flights to Europe and North America.

When asked how many aircraft Thai may be interested in ordering, Wallop said: "We are probably looking at a complete fleet, and any good fleet must be six aircraft and up or else you cannot really control the costs that come with that."

Source: Flight International