Home' Asian Aviation : AAV Feb 2012 Contents 44 AsianAviation | FEBRUARY 2012
e imminent death of the ai Tiger plan was hinted
at in May last year, when ai Airways unveiled its
own plans to create a "lower-cost" airline dubbed ai
Wings. e creation of the new entity was announced
in August, with a plan to begin operations in July
2012. e new carrier has since been renamed ai
e airline has gone out of its way to stress that
ai Smile will not be a typical LCC, but a "light-
premium" airline operating as a sub-brand of its
parent airline, retaining its TG code, while will own
100 percent of the new carrier. Managing director
Woranate Laprabang has been cited in the press
saying the carrier is targeting annual pro t of about 5
billion baht in 2013.
The new airline will also not compete with
Bangkok-based LCC Nok Air, in which ai holds
a 49 percent stake -- increased from 39 percent last
October. Nok only operates to domestic destinations
out of Don Muang airport, Thai Air ways said,
while Thai Smile will operate from the larger
hub of Suvarnabhumi, allowing passengers more
connections to international ights. ai Smile will
also ser ve destinations not covered by Nok, including
Chiang Rai and Khon Kaen.
ai Smile will operate a hybrid business model
somewhere between ai Airways full-ser vice and the
strict LCC model of carriers such as AirAsia and Tiger.
Complimentary meals and drinks will be o ered, as
will a baggage allowance of 15-20kg along with other
features more typical of legacy carriers than LCCs.
e airline will operate a eet of 174-seat Airbus
A320 single-aisle twinjets, numbering 11 aircra
by 2013. By that time, the carrier will be ser ving a
network that will cover most ASEAN countries, as
well as destinations in India and China .
At the same time, ai Airways has been pursuing
its own eet modernisation programme, announcing
plans in mid-2011 to acquire 15 aircra and lease 22
more from 2011-2017.
e airline said it would order six Boeing 777-
300ER widebody twinjets, for delivery from May
2014 to September 2015. Rival manufacturer Airbus
would supply four of its new A350-900 twinjets, to
arrive from the second quarter of 2016 to the third
quarter of 2017, while ve single-aisle A320-200s
would be delivered from 2014 to 2015.
The leased aircraft would include eight of
Boeing s new 787 'Dreamliners , eight A350s and
six A320s. ese aircra would be taken up on
12-year operating leases, with deliveries scheduled
for 2014-2017, 2016-2017 and 2012-2013,
ai valued the acquisition of the 37 aircra at
about 118.6 billion baht.
Alongside the latest eet acquisitions, ai also has
outstanding orders for six Airbus A380-800s -- the
world s largest airliner -- which it ordered in 2006. e
rst of these aircra entered Airbus s nal assembly
line in Toulouse in late November in preparation for
delivery in October this year.
Also on order by ai since 2009 are eight A330-
300 twinjets, the rst two of which were delivered in
2011, with three more scheduled to arrive this year
and the nal three in 2013.
ai s decision to acquire single-aisle A320s as
replacements for its Boeing 737-400s has raised
some eyebrows, since the carrier had also evaluated
the Next-Generation 737-800.
As it acquires new aircra , ai is also enhancing
its product by refurbishing its existing eet. e
company has been installing new seats in its 12 747-
400 jetliners, a programme which is expected to be
completed by the second quarter of 2013.
ai Air ways chairman Ampon Kittiampon said
in a statement that the carrier is con dent the new
aircra will yield substantial savings in fuel and
maintenance costs. e eet modernisation will also
help the carrier meet new, stricter European Union
policies on emissions.
e latest eet acquisition is a scaled-down version
of a previous plan, which envisaged buying or leasing
a total of 75 aircra in two phases, with the nal 37
scheduled to arrive between 2018 and 2022. e
earlier plan was rejected by the company s board.
With Thailand s latest change of government
in July last year, which saw Yingluck Shinawatra
become prime minister, some industry obser vers
had questioned whether the new administration
would allow Piyasvasti to remain at the helm of ai
Airways. e company president was formerly energy
minister of the former ai Democrat government.
Piyasvasti publicly dug in his heels after the
2011 election, saying that any move to unseat
him would have to comply with stock exchange
rules. Previously, it was usual for the heads of state
enterprises such as ai to step down a er a regime
change, but this time it has not happened, allowing
the airline to retain continuity of management at
this challenging time.
Although the government holds a 51 percent
stake in ai Air ways, the remaining 49 percent are
owned by the private sector, which Piyasvasti insisted
prevents the government from taking such action
So he remains in his post, determined to nish
the job he started -- to return the national carrier
of a country that, despite everything, retains its
powerful allure as an Asian tourist destination, to
Thai Airways chairman Ampon
Kittiampon said that the carrier
is confident the new aircraft
will yield substantial savings in
fuel and maintenance costs.
Thai's first A380 is now in final assembly, scheduled for delivery in October.
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