THAI may cut nonstop flights to US
Route revamp could affect summer service
By BOONSONG KOSITCHOTETHANA
Thai Airways International is considering replacing its direct flights to the United States with one-stop services in the wake of losses and fierce competition.
The flag carrier's non-stop Bangkok-New York service is likely to be replaced with flights with stopovers in major Chinese cities such as Beijing or Shanghai, while Bangkok-Los Angeles flights would stop in South Korea.
The change in THAI's North American operation is part of a route revamp that could affect the forthcoming summer flight timetable, beginning in April. The new timetable was not expected to see any new routes being introduced, according to THAI president Apinan Sumanaseni.
Pressured by shareholders to improve yields, THAI is taking a hard look at the economics and viability of its entire system.
Fierce competition on the so-called Kangaroo route _ flights from Australia and New Zealand _ especially by Dubai-based Emirates _ may force THAI to cut flight frequencies, he said.
Part of the revamp also involves changing the type of aircraft used. For instance, it may use the B747-400 jumbo jet, A340-600 or B777-ER on US-bound services instead of the A340-500 that holds only 200 passengers.
The higher capacity aircraft and the stopovers would help THAI to shore up profitability on those routes.
Capt Apinan conceded that THAI stood to lose some appeal by dropping its non-stop North American flights, directed over the North Pole, but it was more worried about the financial burdens these services entailed.
THAI operates five direct flights a week to New York and the same number on its Bangkok-Los Angeles route. Its services to Moscow and Johannesburg introduced last year were doing fine, he noted.
Along with making efforts to reduce operating costs and improve profitability, Capt Apinan said THAI would proceed with the previously proposed establishment of a new wholly owned airline subsidiary, tentatively known as Royal Orchid Airlines, or Euarng Luang in Thai.
The new airline would take over THAI's domestic operation, which has been suffering losses, using a more cost-effective and less complicated operating model.
The new carrier will be positioned between the conventional premium airline and the low-cost carrier. With the creation of the new airline, THAI would become a fully-fledged international carrier.
- Just last year they increased frequencies on the non-stops, right? I would have thought that was a positive sign but perhaps not.
- If they get rid of the non-stops, do they sell off their A340-500 fleet? No need for that range anymore, is there?
- Does anyone see SQ making similar cuts?
- And the Royal Orchid Airlines idea is back. Is there really a need for TG to have two domestic airlines (Nok Air being the other)? The high prices they charge for their domestic services really don't make sense when they offer nothing different that their competitors.