October 19, 2018 / 9:42 AM / 25 days ago

Thai Airways looks at A350, 777X for fleet renewal: executive

JEJU, South Korea (Reuters) - Thai Airways International PCL (THAI.BK) is considering the purchase of Airbus SE (AIR.PA) A350s or Boeing Co (BA.N) 777X jets as part of a plan to renew its widebody fleet, a senior executive said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: A Thai Airways Boeing 777-300ER plane takes off from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport February 23, 2015. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom/File Photo

The airline submitted a plan to its government to buy 23 jets worth 100 billion baht ($3.07 billion) including some widebodies, but it was last month sent back to the new Thai Airways leadership team for a three-month review.

“Hopefully the figures will not change too much because we need room for expansion,” Thai Airways Vice President Alliances and Commercial Strategy Krittaphon Chantalitanon said of the order size on the sidelines of an industry conference.

A decision is expected before Christmas, he said, with the widebody jets to replace aging 747s, 777-200s and 777-300s. It would also give the airline the capacity to relaunch U.S. flights assuming Thailand’s safety rating is upgraded by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“We also have to do proper market studies whether it is the east coast, the west coast or whatever,” Chantalitanon said of U.S. flights. “At the moment we have not decided where our metal is going to land and we also need the delivery of our future fleet.”

The flights would compete against non-stop U.S. flights from Southeast Asian rivals Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIAL.SI) and Philippine Airlines Inc [PHL.UL]. Chantalitanon said there was enough premium traffic from Thailand and neighboring countries to make the flights viable.

Thai Airways, which has been struggling financially, is pinning hopes of a revival on the new leadership team, jet purchases and improving its brand as tourism booms in the region.

Chantalitanon said there had been a “bit of a drop” in passenger demand on Chinese routes after a boat accident in July that killed dozens of tourists.

European and Japanese demand was stronger, he said, with the airline adding more flights to those regions.

($1 = 32.6100 baht)

Reporting by Jamie Freed

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