A high-ranking official at Thai Airways has conceded that only serious reforms will save his airline from continued financial losses.
Thai Airways President Sumeth Damrongchaitham said his airline needs to restructure in order to “survive” in the “highly competitive aviation business.”
As it faces continued pressure in the domestic market from low-cost carriers like AirAsia and Lion Air, it plans to cede more of that market and focus on international flying. That’s hardly a new goal, but this time Thai is working with what has been termed “Team Thailand” (airlines including Thai, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, and Thai Smile) to create a sustainable route schedule.
Nok Air and Thai Smile are Thai Airways subsidiaries; their inclusions makes sense. Bangkok Airways may be part of the team simply because it is a well-established full-service carriers that poses a lesser threat than the growing budget carriers.
The new initiative, which will impact the 2020 flight schedule, will feed connecting domestic traffic to other members of Team Thailand. Damrongchaitham added:
Our new schedule will provide support for customers who fly by Thai to Bangkok and have to board a connecting flight to other locations in Thailand or neighbouring countries. The new schedules will ensure passengers have enough time to catch connecting flights.
While that all sounds positive, it’s not like Thai Airways faces only competition on its domestic routes. In recent years, it has also scaled back its unprofitable longhaul network (including ending service to the USA) and faces a difficult situation in which 1.) only regional routes are generally profitable, but 2.) cutting longhaul and domestic flights would reduce traffic on those regional routes.
After two superb flights on Thai Airways earlier this month, I am really “rooting” for the airline to recover. Maybe this is the answer. But year after year we’ve seen grand aspirations of reform at Thai Airways only to be met with entrenched interests that perpetuate the status quo. Will that happen again this time? Only time will tell.
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image: Thai Airways