Thai Airways to Acquire Up to 38 New Planes to Modernize Fleet

(Bloomberg) -- Thai Airways International Pcl, the nation’s flagship carrier, plans to buy as many as 38 new aircraft to help reduce maintenance costs after losses widened more than fivefold last year amid fierce competition and unpredictable fuel prices.

The new aircraft, which are more fuel-efficient, would help trim operating costs and attract customers, President Sumeth Damrongchaitham told reporters Friday in Bangkok. The state-controlled carrier may need to lease some aircraft before the deliveries are complete, he said, without detailing the models the carrier is weighing.

“Thai Airways is in a trap -- we have old aircraft that have endured heavy use and cause issues to operations,” said Sumeth. “Many times we had to ground planes, do repairs, change flights.”

Thai Airways reported a loss of 11.6 billion baht ($365 million) in 2018, versus 2.1 billion baht a year earlier, with Sumeth attributing the widening losses to currency fluctuations and oil prices.

The plan to purchase new aircraft will need Cabinet approval, said Nattapong Samit-Ampaipisarn, the airline’s chief financial officer.

The carrier’s shares fell as much as 4.6 percent Friday, their fourth day of declines. They have slumped about 80 percent since listing in 1992.

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