fleet expansion put on hold
Thai Airways International is waiting for a signal from the new government before following through with plans to cancel its order for six Airbus A380 superjumbos and buy a fleet of new wide-body jets, executives said. All options are still on the table for the national carrier's multi-billion-dollar fleet expansion, which includes six long-range planes and eight medium-range aircraft. Any decisions are likely to be based on the company's financial position, the new government's policy and the views of the new THAI board of directors, chaired by coup co-leader ACM Chalit Phukphasuk.
One option under discussion is to cancel orders for the six A380s, valued at more than $1.7 billion, and replace them with other types of aircraft in order to meet expected traffic demand in 2009, when the first three superjumbos were originally expected. The other three would come the following year.
But last month Airbus, the aircraft maker controlled by aerospace group EADS, said problems with the A380 development would lead to two-year delivery delays and a profit shortfall of 4.8 billion euros.
In Osaka yesterday, Wallop Bhukkanasut, THAI's executive vice-president for commercial operations, confirmed to Reuters that the airline did not rule out terminating the A380 orders. Thai Airways had planned to use the superjumbos on some of its most popular routes, from Bangkok to Frankfurt, London and Tokyo.
THAI executives in Bangkok said the airline had been actively discussing all issues surrounding the A380 delivery delay, including the provision of penalty fees.
''Yes we're talking with them but we have no desire to put the issues in the news,'' said one executive.
THAI planners are now looking at jetliners with large capacity and long-range capability, such as the Boeing 747-8, the new generation of 36-year-old Boeing 747 jumbos, or the a long-range four-engine Airbus that can carry up to 380 passengers.Meanwhile, the carrier is still weighing the merits of two competing types of medium-range aircraft: the Boeing 777- 200, and the A330-300 twin-jet jetliner, which costs $140 million each and can seat 295 passengers.
A proposal to purchase A330-300s was suddenly pulled from the agenda of THAI's Sept 22 board meeting as questions arose as to whether the airline had properly compared the European-made jets with their American-made counterparts, executives said.
THAI plans to phase in the eight new regional jets into its fleet over the next three to five years. They will replace eight of the airline's 22 A300-600s that have been in service for 20 years.
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