Thai Airways, one of Asia’s best airlines with lush purple interiors and a founding member of Star Alliance. There’s a lot of good to be said about the airline however internally the airline is struggling, with an AU$4.6 billion debt it’s fair to say that the state-owned airline is in a spot of bother and is desperately trying to get back into profitability however passengers might have a surprise waiting for them if the proposed plan goes ahead.
Thai’s financial woes have been of public scrutiny so much so that the Thai government transport minister has suggested that Thai’s A340-600’s that were retired in 2015 be brought back into the skies to make a profit instead of accumulating fees in storage. Thai’s board previously rejected a bid for the purchase of 38 long-range aircraft earlier this year, citing that the large upfront purchase price. The reason Thai still has the A340-600’s because due to the new fuel-efficient planes on the market in recent years the A340 is viewed as a gas guzzler and has been unable to sell any of the six in storage with their two remaining A340-500’s simply having to be scrapped. The ideal plan is that the A340’s be retrofitted with new interiors to match the rest of the fleet and operate long haul routes throughout Thai’s network of 74 destinations. The oldest of Thai’s A340’s was delivered to the airline in 2005 with the newest being delivered in 2008, they are about midway through their services lives and potentially have 8-10 years of life left in them.
However, problems arise when the practicalities come into play. The retrofit would have to be massive, the A340’s business class seats do not have direct aisle access nor lie-flat seats with the economy cabin having outdated IFE screens and even the configuration would need to be changed due to the A340’s having the same business class seat count as the much larger A380. It’s four engines also makes it inefficient and noisier than other models as the retrofits possibly taking over 12 months to complete.
While the complications of getting these ageing aircraft back into the sky might be difficult it’s still a possible way to reduce costs significantly and with the transport minister having a very large impact over the decision there is a possibility that you could be hearing the mighty four-engined wide-body near you very soon. Only time will tell what happens.
Thai’s A340-600 at Sydney Airport full photo credit