Andrzej Jeziorski/BANGKOK

Thai Airways International plans to rationalise its diverse fleet around six aircraft types within five years, as part of a long-term plan it will present to potential investors this year. The airline is also evaluating the ultra-long-haul Boeing 777 and Airbus A340 models for new non-stop flights to the USA.

The 93% government-owned airline is due to be privatised by the end of this year, with 10% earmarked for a strategic partner airline or airline group, and a further 13% destined to go in a public share offering.

According to Thai president Thamnoon Wanglee, the rationalisation will probably see the retirement of the airline's four Boeing MD-11s within the next few years. "It has not been approved by the board yet," he says.

Thamnoon says the plan includes cutting back the number of engine types in the fleet to seven, with six pilot type ratings. Thai's operational fleet comprises 74 aircraft: 14 Boeing 747-400s and two 747-300 Classics, which require separate type ratings; twelve 777-200/777-300s; four MD-11s; 18 Airbus A300-600s (a mix of Pratt & Whitney and General Electric powered versions); 11 Airbus A330-300s; 11 Boeing 737-400s; and two ATR 72 turboprops.

Two A300B4s and one Airbus A310-200 have been grounded awaiting sale, while five A300B4s and two ATR 42s have been sold. Meanwhile, the airline's board has approved an order for two more 747-400s, which requires government ratification.

Thamnoon says the carrier had hoped to phase out the ATR 72s by the end of this year, but decided to keep them for its domestic services. Thai's twelfth A330 and two more 777-300s will arrive this year.

Thai is looking to expand its services to the USA, with the introduction of non-stop flights from Bangkok to Los Angeles, along with routes to Chicago and New York. The A340-500 and 777-200LR are under evaluation for these services.

The five-year plan will also include "heavy investment" in the planned New Bangkok International Airport at Nong Ngu Hao, which is to open in 2004 and will take over from Don Muang Airport, due to close by 2005.

Thai is looking for a maintenance company to market its overhaul capacity at Bangkok, and its new facility at U-Tapao Airport.

Source: Flight International