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February 6, 2020updated 28 Feb 2020 1:42pm

Leasing aircraft high on agenda for Thailand’s beleaguered national airline

By Alejandro Gonzalez

Thai Airways International is exploring options to lease aircraft as part of fleet and service improvement options, according to a Thai government spokesman.

The national carrier, in which the government has a controlling interest, plans to procure 38 planes with its budget of 156 billion baht (£3.8bn), Thai transport minister Saksayam Chidchob told The Nation, an English-language daily newspaper in Thailand recently.

The newspaper reported the government was considering either leasing the planes with outsourced cabin attendants or leasing only the aircraft. He said he has instructed the airline to study the pros and cons of both options in line with the budget plan and flight routes.

The minister said he wanted the procurement issue finalised this year.

The newspaper also reported that Saksayam had downplayed concerns that government regulations may not permit leasing aircraft with outsourced cabin staff. Regulations could be amended to remove obstacles, said Saksayam, who also chairs the Civil Aviation Commission.

Sumeth Damrongchaitham, the president of Thai Airways International, said in light of the government directive, the company’s procurement plan will be updated to include a three-way comparison between aircraft purchase, aircraft leasing with outsourced cabin crew, and leasing without cabin staff.

A ministry source said another possible option was an aircraft swap. However, that proposition would require altering regulations related to the Procurement and Hire Act of the Comptroller General’s Department.

The airline suffered a steep net loss of 11.1 billion baht (£270m) in the first nine months of 2019.

The decision comes as the airline is facing a series of domestic as well as international problems, the latest being the coronavirus which is expected to disrupt air travel across Southeast Asia.

On the domestic front, Thai Airways reported in October 2019 that the airline was facing a crisis, citing a high Thai baht deterring travellers, the continuation of unsustainable routes, and operating costs being too high.

The airline is a state enterprise which is controlled by the government and partly owned by the public.

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