If you can’t sell it, restore it? That’s the decision facing Thai Airways.
Thai Airways’ A340-600 Problem
Five years ago Thai Airways retired its last Airbus A340 aircraft. The four-engine planes were used for intercontinental travel, but relatively fuel inefficient in an era of A350s and 787s.
Currently, six A340-600s are parked in Pattaya, an idyllic beach town about 100 miles from Bangkok. Thai Airways has tried–and failed–to lease or sell these aircraft. But it is hardly a surprise that little interest has been shown. Singapore Airlines and others in the region retired their own A340 fleets for the same reason.
Dueling Visions For Thai Airways + Thai Government
Earlier this year, I wrote about Thai’s fleet renewal plan. The proposal included a plan to buy 38 new aircraft. Citing Thai’s $3.2BN debt and widening losses, however, the government rejected the plan. It suggested Thai Airways lease aircraft instead, an idea Thai ultimately rejected.
The government’s latest counter-offer comes from Deputy Minister of Transport Thaworn Sennam and concludes that restoring the six A340s and putting them back into service is a better option than letting them rot in an aircraft boneyard.
Déjà Vu For Thai Airways
Thai Airways’ A340-600 fleet is actually not that old. Deliveries took place between 2005-2008, making them relatively youthful. Originally, Thai Airways planned to extend the life of the A340s into the 2020s, but suddenly accelerated the retirement in 2015.
The premium-heavy A340-600s have angled business class seats. Window seats do not have direct aisle access. A retrofit would not just be wise, but a condition precedent to restoring these aircraft to service.
Currently, the aircraft features eight first class seats (1-2-1), 60 business class seats (2-2-2), and 199 in economy class (2-4-2). That means 25% of the aircraft is premium. Compare that to Thai’s A350-900, in which only 10% of seats onboard are premium.
A retrofit would re-balance onboard seating, recognizing the difficult economics of such a premium-heavy aircraft.
Thai Airways has not yet indicated if it is open to bringing back the A340-600. But with a rash of recent resignations, the Thai board is stacked in favor of the government. Thai Airways might not have a choice…
Is the proposal to retrofit A40-600s insane or a better alternative than leaving them to rust?