BANGKOK, THAILAND — Thai Airways unveils plans to double narrow-body fleet and reinforce regional routes.

Thai Airways is on track to clinch an agreement for the procurement of at least 30 new aircraft by year-end, with plans to potentially double its collection of narrow-body jets within the next ten years, according to Reuters.

The national carrier of Thailand is set to dispatch a 'request for proposal' to aviation giants Airbus and Boeing this week, with the request covering the purchase of 30 wide-body aircraft and an unspecified number of narrow-body jets.

In a bid to leverage the anticipated upswing in travel following the pandemic, Thai Airways is looking to amplify its regional routes. However, questions linger around whether manufacturers Airbus and Boeing will be capable of accelerating production to fulfill delivery schedules.

Following a bankruptcy-protected debt restructuring totaling 400 billion baht ($11.17 billion) in 2021, Thai Airways presently operates a fleet of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft and has locked in the delivery of 12 new A321neo leased planes set to arrive in 2025 and 2026, according to the CEO, Chai.

He pointed out that the long-term aim for their narrow-body fleet is to reach between 30 and 40 aircraft. The new additions are destined to operate across essential medium-haul routes including Southeast Asia, India, southern China, and southern Japan - sectors that the carrier seeks to fortify.

According to Chai, the airline must prioritize and concentrate on enhancing its regional routes, which he describes as a current weakness.

Thai Airways' wide-body fleet is also slated to rise from the current 45 to 56 aircraft by Q1 next year. These additional aircraft will be dry leased - a leasing structure that usually excludes crew.

Chai explained this increase as a short-term initiative, with the new jets being allocated for long-haul intercontinental routes to Australia and Europe, which have been rebounding strongly post-pandemic.

The CEO also noted that the airline's cabin factor - a measure of the percentage of seats sold - stood at around 84% in the previous quarter, while forward bookings, particularly from Europe, were demonstrating a promising trend.

Chai, who transitioned from CFO to CEO of Thai Airways last November, expressed confidence that the company's restructuring efforts in the wake of the pandemic were progressing as planned. Furthermore, he confirmed the airline's intention to return to the stock market by Q1 2025, indicating that if circumstances allowed, they would expedite the process.