THAI focuses on careful growth
Thai Airways International currently serves its three Middle Eastern ports of Dubai, Kuwait and Muscat with A330-300 aircraft, which carry high inbound load factors into its main hub, Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.
As one of the world’s top tourist destinations, Thailand has seen a significant increase in inbound traffic particularly from the Middle East, and THAI has been at the forefront of this growth.
Captain Woranate Laprabang, director Strategy Implementation and Evaluation, Corporate Planning Department, confirmed that the airline had no immediate plans to introduce high capacity aircraft such as the A380 or B747-8 to the Middle East. But he added,“If we increase the number of very high capacity aircraft from 2012 onwards, it is most likely that we would use them on the Middle East routes.”
“The Middle East routes have had double digit growth in the last few years. We view the Middle East as one of the most important markets in our network, despite strong competition from Middle Eastern based carriers.”
Captain Woranate did not rule out THAI eventually flying to other Middle Eastern destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Amman and Beirut, but no decisions have been confirmed on these routes, although Captain Woranate said destinations such as Abu Dhabi and Amman “have very good potential.”
“The Middle East load factors are very good, especially to Dubai where they are more than 80 per cent. We are looking for the opportunity to increase more frequencies, probably in the near future. The Kuwait and Muscat routes are not as popular as Dubai at the moment. However, we are watching demand closely as we believe they have good potential.
“For Muscat, we just amended our schedules from Bangkok-Karachi-Muscat and have started flying three direct flights per week to Muscat last year. If the demand increases we could consider more flights there in two to five years.”
“We are taking a long term view as we see the potential in the Middle East. Our strategy for the Middle East market is one of careful growth. We do not plan to be overly aggressive as there is already a lot of competition on these routes. We will gradually increase our capacity as the demand increases, and when we see which routes are profitable. We do not want to put too much capacity in until we have done this type of assessment.”
A measure of how seriously THAI takes the Middle East market is the introduction of a large halal food catering division at Suvarnabhumi Airport. THAI Catering Services provides up to 4,000 Halal meals a day for its own flights to a large number of Muslim countries.
Captain Woranate said that THAI’s longer term strategy elsewhere in the Asian region was to identify demand to specific cities and evaluate whether to increase capacity or not.
In 2008, its 48th year as an airline, THAI has 84 aircraft which fly to 63 international destinations and 12 domestic ports.
The THAI fleet strategy, signed off by the board of directors, is to increase the current fleet of 84 aircraft to 118 by the end of 2017.
From April 2009 THAI will start delivery of the A330-300s, some of which will be used on the Middle East routes.The A380 will be introduced into the THAI fleet with four in 2010 and two in 2011.