A new route plan for Thai In-ternational Airways (Thai) will take about six months from October, President Charamporn Jotikasthira says.
After nearly two years of business rehabilitation, the state enterprise has started to return to the black, he said. Now the carrier is entering a phase of adjusting entire routes and flights within each route to make them better suited to the flag carrier’s locations and fleet.
“Since we returned to the black, we can now resume some routes that we had temporarily terminated when cost cutting was our priority, and also open new routes that will support our network,” Charamporn said.
Thai’s latest route, Bangkok-Tehran, launches on October 1 with four flights a week.
The route is expected to have as high as an 80-percent cabin-load factor. The target group is tourists traveling to Thailand, as well as business travelers and tourists from Australia and Malaysia who travel to Iran with a stopover in Bangkok.
The Bangkok-Moscow route, which Thai plans to resume on December 15, will offer four flights a week. THAI is seeking partners on different routes to improve the viability of services such as Bangkok-Moscow.
The airline has reached out to travel agents in 20 cities in Russia, especially in high-potential Siberia.
“From our study, this route has high demand both inbound and outbound,” Charamporn said. “The study also found that demand from travelers in neighboring countries that want to fly to Moscow through Bangkok is relatively high.”
He said the company’s new flight schedule of new and resurrected routes would improve efficiency of flying-hour usage for each plane, from 11 hours a day to 13, to reach an optimum level on a par with industry norms.
Once Thai has improved the efficiency of its plane utilization and routes for existing aircraft, including the new Airbus 350-900 XWB, the company can expand with further routes without needing to acquire new planes for a long while.
In the fourth quarter of this year, THAI plans to increase the frequency of flights to Melbourne by using the Airbus 350-900 XWB for the route. “This route allows us to use an aeroplane at its highest efficiency,” Charamporn said. “Because it takes about nine hours to fly from Bangkok to Melbourne, it means we can use one aircraft to fly out and back within one day.”
He said Thai would be able to increase its capacity by 5.7 percent during the winter flight schedule versus the schedule of the past summer.
In terms of cabin-load factor, the company is still confident that it can meet the target of 80 percent by the end of the year. The figure has risen gradually to around 75 percent in the current quarter.
A positive factor in support of meeting the target is the low price of crude oil, while a negative factor is that operating return per seat is relatively low, a trend affecting airlines worldwide.