Key Points:

  • Thai Airways is in talks to potentially order up to 90 aircraft, primarily widebodies, from Airbus SE and Boeing Co. as part of its fleet renewal strategy.

  • The deal, still under negotiation, might include up to 80 twin-aisle jets and a lease agreement for around a dozen narrowbodies.

  • The airline, still in debt-rehabilitation following its bankruptcy protection filing in 2020, reported its fourth consecutive quarterly profit in November.

Strategic Fleet Enhancement by Thai Airways

In a move signaling a significant overhaul of its fleet, Thai Airways is contemplating an extensive order for up to 90 aircraft, primarily widebody models, from aerospace giants Airbus SE and Boeing Co. Sources familiar with the situation, who requested anonymity due to the private nature of the discussions, revealed that the airline’s plans include acquiring as many as 80 twin-aisle jets through a combination of firm orders, options, and purchase rights. Additionally, Thai Airways is nearing a leasing agreement for approximately a dozen smaller, narrowbody aircraft.

The final composition of Thai Airways' order remains undecided, and the details of the agreement could still undergo changes. An announcement regarding the deal might emerge in the coming weeks. When approached for comments, representatives for Boeing did not respond, while Airbus refrained from discussing ongoing customer negotiations until formal announcements are made.

A Push for Modernization Amid Industry Trends

This potential order from Thai Airways would contribute to the current surge in demand for widebody aircraft observed across the airline industry this year. Carriers are increasingly seeking modern, fuel-efficient aircraft to rejuvenate their fleets. Recently, Boeing secured a substantial order from Emirates at the Dubai Air Show, while Airbus has seen a record number of commitments for its A350 model in 2023.

Thai Airways CEO Chai Eamsiri, in a June interview, mentioned the airline’s plans to issue a request for proposal to both Airbus and Boeing for new aircraft expected for delivery starting in 2026. Eamsiri highlighted the airline’s interest in approximately 30 new widebody jets and additional A321neos for Thai Smile, Thai Airways' regional subsidiary. The airline has chosen not to comment on the ongoing discussions. One source suggested that the order might include up to 40 aircraft from Boeing, likely the 787 Dreamliner model.

Challenges and Prospects for Thai Airways

The success of any potential Airbus order might hinge on negotiations with engine-maker Rolls-Royce, the exclusive supplier for the A350 and A330neo jets. Eamsiri has previously expressed concerns regarding Rolls-Royce’s pricing policies. Currently, Thai Airways operates a reduced fleet of about 65 aircraft, down from 103 before the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline is still navigating through a court-supervised debt-rehabilitation program initiated after filing for bankruptcy protection in 2020, which included significant staff reductions.

Despite these challenges, Thai Airways reported a remarkable fourth consecutive quarterly profit on November 10, a first in its history. The airline is on track to exit its debt restructuring process next year, and this ambitious fleet renewal plan could be a pivotal part of its strategy for recovery and future growth.