Monday, July 03, 2023

Thai Airways plans to double fleet with focus on India: CEO

Thai Airways International, which sought bankruptcy protection in 2020 due to inefficient management and a sharp deterioration in its business because of COVID-19, is about to spread its wings wide again.

"We have to grow," said CEO Chai Eamsiri, who has nearly 40 years of experience in the airline industry, in an interview with Nikkei Asia. "Otherwise, we will not be able to compete with other international airlines." He added that the airline will double the size of its fleet, which had shrunk under its restructuring plan, as it enters a new phase of expansion.

Chai's focus is on India. "I think we do well on continental flights, like Europe and Australia, but we have to improve Western [routes] -- I mean India, Bangladesh and Pakistan," he said.

India, with the world's largest population, has always had strong cultural and economic ties with Thailand. The number of tourists from China, a major target for Thailand, fell sharply because of Beijing's zero-COVID policy. The public and private sectors in Thailand are now working together to attract visitors from India.

According to the Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports, about 990,000 Indians visited Thailand in 2022, second only to Thailand's neighbor Malaysia. Preliminary figures for January to May this year also place the country among the top sources of visitors, with 600,000 Indians coming to Thailand so far.

Chai revealed plans to expand Thai Airways' fleet, which had been cut to 65 planes as a restructuring measure, to 113 by 2027. The increase will be mainly in small, "narrow-body" aircraft, which are expected to be introduced in new markets, particularly India.

03/07/2023 Kosuke Inoue/Nikkei Asia

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