This state-owned domestic carrier is formed on November 1, 1951 through the merger of Siamese Airways Co., Ltd. (SAC) and Pacific Overseas Airlines (Siam), Ltd. (POAS). With a fleet consisting mainly of SAC’s Douglas DC-3s and POAC’s two DC-4s, inherited and previously flown regional and domestic routes are maintained during the remainder of the year and into 1952.
Among the company’s local service routes are Phitsanulok, Lampang, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Phuket, Surat Thani, Nat Yai. International regional flights continue to Penang, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Rangoon, and Calcutta.
During 1953, two Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellations are ordered and DC-4 service is expanded from Hong Kong to Taipei and Tokyo. Financial problems cause TAC to sell its Lockheeds, even before delivery, to KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines, N. V.) and they are turned over to the Dutch carrier in June and July 1955.
The decision is taken in 1956 to form an international division and to again seek Super Constellations. The carrier is given a $2-million U. S. International Cooperation Administration development grant to purchase three more L-1049Gs. A management and technical contract, approved by the U. S. CAB, is signed with Pan American World Airways (1), but is cancelled two years later upon objection of the Thai government.
Later in 1958, the company seeks a second management contract, this one with Northwest Airlines. Following dissatisfactions expressed by the CAB, completion of arrangements with the American major fail. Meanwhile, the Super Constellations, received in July, are allowed to sit idle at Bangkok Airport.
Following a period of negotiations conducted under the leadership of Hans Erik Hansen, an agreement is reached with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) on August 24, 1959. The Europeans will operate the carrier’s hoped-for long-haul international routes, while TAC continues to operate domestic and regional services. The arrangement is concluded on December 14 with the joint formation of Thai Airways International, Ltd. (THAI) , in which the Scandinavians take a minority equity stake (30%). The new division’s activities are examined below.
On May 1, 1960, TAC turns over to THAI all of its previously operated significant regional routes, but continues to fly within the borders of Thailand and to a few cities nearby. The three redundant L-1049Gs are sold to Aerovias Guest, S. A. de C. V. in Mexico, in which SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) also holds substantial shareholding. Domestic services with DC-3s and other light aircraft continue in 1961-1962.
In April 1963, the government approves TAC’s plan to purchase three, subsequently nine, Avro (later Hawker Siddeley later British Aerospace) 748s to supplement the DC-3s. Although THAI’s parent comes to maintain a lower profile than its internationally known subsidiary, its domestic and regional work continues in 1964. The three HS 748s are placed into service on high-density routes, beginning on April 1, leaving the Douglas transports to be operated on other services.
The workforce stands at 293 in 1965 and enplanements are 91,836.
Operations continue apace for the next decade, during which time regional routes are opened to Kuala Lumpur and Vientiane. Only one plane is lost during these years.
Flight 002, a DC-3 with 3 crew and 28 passengers, crashes while landing at Chiang Mai at the end of a service from Bangkok in May 1967 (four dead). The last DC-3 is retired in 1975.
During the heated contest between THAI and the independent Air Siam, Ltd. in 1976, company workers support THAI employees in August demonstrations in Bangkok. Officials of the government of Thailand discuss a possible three-way merger; however, Air Siam, Ltd. collapses in September before any such plan can be put on paper. At the same time, the decision is taken to acquire the SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) stake, which had been reduced to 15% in 1974. SAS’s local station chief, Niels Lumholdt, prepares to ease the transition.
Air Siam, Ltd. stops flying on January 12, 1977. On February 2, THAI is designated as the nation’s sole flag carrier and the next day, Air Siam’s license is revoked. On March 31, the SAS shareholding in THAI is terminated, with the European ownership turned over to TAC and the government Ministries of Finance and Communications.
A new lotus logo is introduced in September, replacing the original three-headed elephant symbol. The first Boeing 737-2P5A is delivered on October 21, entering regional service the following month from Chi-angmai to Vientiane and Penang. The first HS 748 survey flight to Hanoi occurs on May 17, 1978, while on October 21, regularly-scheduled HS 748 service to the Vietnamese capital begins.
Airline employment at Chairman Air Chief Marshal Penieng Kan-tarat’s carrier stands at 599 in 1979. A code-sharing agreement is signed with Lao Aviation Company and during the first quarter, twice-weekly flights are inaugurated from Bangkok to Hanoi via Vientiane. The last DC-3 is retired in 1980.
While on initial approach to Bangkok from Khon Kaen on April 27, Flight 231, an HS 748-2A with 4 crew and 49 passengers, is caught in a thunderstorm, where it encounters a downdraft that forces it to hit the ground, slide 510 ft., and break up (44 dead).
Another HS 748-2A with 3 crew and 18 passengers fails its takeoff from Chiang Rai, Thailand, on June 21, 1981, overruns the runway, and stops against the banks of a stream; although the aircraft is severely damaged, there are no fatalities.
On May 14, 1982, the first of four Shorts 330s are introduced as HS 748 replacements on feeder routes from Chiangmai, Khon-Kaen, and Hat-Yai.
The fleet in 1983 comprises 5 B-737-2P5As, 2 HS 748s, and 2 Shorts 330s. The company now adopts a policy of regional and domestic long-haul route sharing with its offspring.
En route from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai on January 18, a Shorts 330 is captured by three armed men, who demand a ransom and parachutes. Their request is denied and deciding not to engage in violence, the trio escapes from the turboprop after it lands at its destination. Two of the men will be captured and imprisoned.
An interline service is begun with Thai Airways International, Ltd. (THAI) on December 1 from Bangkok to Phuket.
A Hat Yai-Singapore B-737-2P5A route is opened under charter to THAI on February 4, 1984. New pink uniforms are introduced by the carrier’s hostesses and the last pair of Shorts 330s are delivered. The first long-haul interline service with THAI is initiated to Cairo via Karachi and Muscat on June 6.
During the year, passenger enplanements total one million.
The employee population in 1985 stands at 559 and orders are placed for 2 Airbus Industrie A310-204s and 1 A300B4-601. Bandar Seri Bagawan in Malaysia becomes a shared destination with THAI on April 5.
While on initial approach to Phuket on April 15, a B-737-2P5A with seven crew and four passengers crashes into a mountain; there are no survivors.
On September 30, Air Marshal Narong Dithipeng succeeds Air Marshal Kiat Fuangvudhiran as managing director. Two Shorts 360s, delivered on October 22, begin feeder services in the domestic network on November 28.
Passenger boardings this year climb 7.5% to 1,268,000 and 1.97 million FTKs are operated.
The workforce is increased a huge 103% in 1986 to 1,135. Powered by two GE CF6-80C2s, the first A310-204 joins the fleet in May with the second arriving in December; the two aircraft are the airline’s first wide-bodies of any type and are placed in service to operate routes from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket. Meanwhile, the A300B4-601 is delivered on October 9.
Customer bookings jump 10.1% to 1,396,000 and cargo is ahead by 22.7% at 2.42 million FTKs.
Employment continues to increase in 1987, up 32.2% to 1,500.
Carrying 3 other crew and 39 passengers, the copilot is given the honor of landing an HS 748-2A at Chiang Rai, Thailand, on April 28. Unfortunately, he forgets to lower the landing gear and the turboprop makes a gears-up landing alongside the runway, skidding for 1,075 m. to a stop. Although the aircraft is damaged beyond repairs, there are no fatalities.
Flight 365, a B-737-2P5 with 9 crew and 74 passengers, stalls while on final approach to Phuket Island on an August 31 service from Hat Yai and plunges into the Andaman Sea, disintegrating upon impact; there are no survivors.
Orders are placed with leasing companies in November for a pair of Boeing 737s. Auckland and Madrid become joint markets with THAI on December 5.
Passenger boardings ascend 23.1% to 1,719,000 and freight rises 43.8% to 3.49 million FTKs. The year’s net profit is $7.6 million.
On April 1, 1988, the company is merged into its Thai Airways International, Ltd. (THAI) offspring.
THAI AIRWAYS INTERNATIONAL, LTD. (THAI): 89 Vibhavadj Rarigsit Road, Bangkok 9, 10900, Thailand; Phone 66 (2) 513-0121; Fax 66 (2) 513-0183; Http://www. metrotel. co. uk/travelog/thaiair. html; Http://www. thaiair. com; Code TG; Year Founded 1959. Following a year in which management contracts with two U. S. majors are voided, a master agreement covering the next 15 years is signed between Thai Airways, Co., Ltd. and SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) on August 24, 1959, founding a new international operation as a subsidiary of the former. The multinational Scandinavian flag line, whose representative Hans Erik Hansen had led the negotiations, acquires a 30% share in the new airline and pledges to supply modern propeller equipment retired from its fleet as the switch is made to jetliners.
The TAC-SAS pact is formally launched on December 14 with the creation of Thai Airways International, Ltd. (THAI), the new officials of which immediately sign a service agreement with Thai Airways Co., Ltd. and technical, managerial, and equipment contracts with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System).
Three Scandinavian DC-6Bs are transferred under lease to THAI during late winter and a number of Scandinavian personnel are seconded over as well. Revenue flights commence on May 1, 1960 and within a week, all of the former TAC regional routes are being flown, including frequencies to Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo, Rangoon, Calcutta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Saigon, and Phnom Penh. Service is extended to Manila on August 11 and to Jakarta on November 6.
As the result of heavy competition on THAI’s Tokyo route, SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) officials approach Convair, seeking the lease of two of their new Coronados for the THAI operation. The manufacturer readily complies and a THAI DC-6B is accordingly retired.
The Convair CV-990A Coronado Ring Viking, THAI’s first jetliner, is leased from SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) and placed on the Japan service on May 18, 1962. The chartered aircraft is given the name Srisuriyothai for purposes of the lease. A second SAS Coronado, the Adils Viking, is also chartered.
By this time, another DC-6B is out of service and the carrier faces a crisis. To handle problems, Henry Jensen is named CEO. He immediately arranges that capitalization be increased from B 2 million to B 40 million. At the same time, cost-cutting measures are put in place.
In 1963, THAI has the honor of flying Thailand’s King and Queen on royal visits aboard company aircraft—the first of many such flights; countries visited by their majesties include Pakistan, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia. In November, a pooling agreement is reached with Cathay Pacific Airways (Pty.), Ltd. and Malayan Airways, Ltd. covering the Hong Kong, Bangkok, Calcutta, and Singapore routes. The original leased CV-990s, meanwhile, are returned to SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) for refurbishment and eventual sale to Swissair, A. G.
The carrier in 1964 converts to an all-jet fleet as its last DC-6B and the two Convairs are gradually replaced by two ex-Scandinavian Sud-Est SE-210 Caravelle IIIs, the first of which enters service on January 1. In September, THAI launches the first jet service to Osaka by any airline; a route is opened to Dacca in November. Enplanements for the year total 100,000.
A third SE-210 is added in 1965 and the carrier’s first profit is earned. A large flight kitchen is opened at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok to prepare some 40,000 meals each month for 13 scheduled and a number of charter airlines. HRH Capt. the Prince “Nicky” Varanand forms Air Siam, Ltd. (initially, Varanair Siam) at Bangkok on September 15. A fourth Caravelle III is added in 1966 and in October a frequency is initiated to Penang.
The employee population in 1967 totals 1,235 and a fifth SE-210 is acquired.
While landing at Hong Kong in bad weather after a June 30 service from Seoul via Tokyo, Flight 601, an SE-210 Caravelle III with 7 crew and 73 passengers, is caught in a downdraft and crashes into Kowloon Bay (24 dead).
In August, the one-millionth passenger is boarded. The first jet service by any airline to the Indonesian island of Bali is inaugurated on December 24. The workforce is now 1,235.
A Caravelle III with no passengers aboard collides with a Thai army craft on January 21,1968; the company’s aircraft lands safely, but all six aboard the military aircraft are killed. Service is launched to Seoul, New Delhi, and Kathmandu on March 17, July 2, and December 4, respectively; the latter represents the first regular jet service to Nepal by any airline. Orders are placed for Douglas DC-9-41s and DC-8-33s.
In February 1969, two DC-9-41s leased from SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) are placed in service, followed by two chartered DC-8-33s in May. An advanced IBM computer is installed in October. A net $1.08-million profit is realized.
An SE-210 Caravelle III, with 7 crew and 68 passengers is destroyed as the result of a bad landing in heavy weather at Bangkok on July 9; there are no fatalities.
A new cargo terminal is opened at Bangkok in March 1970, the same month Royal Orchid Holiday inclusive-tours are first offered. Bob Keesee, an American with a prison record in Arizona, takes over a company airliner and orders it to fly to North Vietnam; en route to Hanoi, the airliner is hit by antiaircraft fire over Laos. THAI is now the third largest airline in the Far East.
On April 1,1971, THAI’s first intercontinental service, to Sydney, Australia, is inaugurated via Singapore or Bali. During the year, Chatrachai
Bunya-Ananta, a future president, joins the company; he will oversee the airline’s coming years of ascent.
Enplanements reach 702,450.
The workforce in 1972 is 2,800. DC-8-62s are leased from SAS and allow Royal Orchid Service to be started between Bangkok and Copenhagen via Moscow (technical stop) on June 3. In August, a flight crew training center is opened at Bangkok and the last SE-210 is retired in the fall. Royal Orchid Service to Europe also becomes known at year’s end as the Trans-Asian Express.
Bookings for the year decline to 520,027, but freight traffic grows 41%.
A DC-8-33 with 10 crew and 100 passengers fails to stop after landing at Kathmandu on May 10, 1973, crashes off the runway and crosses a concrete drain, killing one person on the ground. No injuries are reported by anyone aboard the aircraft.
By June, the staff numbers an even 3,000 and the DC-9-41s are now withdrawn. The carrier serves 24 cities in 20 countries and on November 2 begins weekly flights to London via Tashkent (technical stop). On November 6, Frankfurt replaces Copenhagen, although the Moscow technical stop continues.
A record $5.5-million net profit is posted and enplanements advance to 545,940.
Airline employment in 1974 is 3,534. The fleet now comprises 6 DC-8-33s and 1 DC-8-62. A new computerized reservations system is implemented; new airplane interior decor and hostess ensembles are introduced. Between March 27 and October 1, three DC-8-63s are delivered and placed into service on the routes to Europe, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Australia. Although the first is chartered from SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System), the second and third mark a new departure in that they are lease-purchases arranged with the First National City Bank. These aircraft are fully owned as of October 26.
Meanwhile, in April, flights are inaugurated to Rome and London frequencies are increased. The five-year pact with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) is renewed on July 16; however, the European carrier’s stake is cut in half, to 15%.
Although passenger traffic this year climbs 19% to 674,000, Air Siam, Ltd. is offering a quality and variety of service against which THAI finds it increasingly difficult to compete. A new approach must be taken.
THAI intensifies its battle with Air Siam, Ltd. in March 1975 when, on the last day of the month, it leases its first wide-bodied jetliner, a DC-10-30 from UTA French Airlines, S. A. The carrier in April changes its corporate identity, introducing the “New Look” designed by Landor Associates.
The French DC-10-30 is placed in service on April 3 over a route to Amsterdam; it is the first airplane to appear in the new livery. The Douglas is returned in June when two purchased DC-10-30s, led by the Ha-riphunchai, arrive. Flights begin to Athens and Paris on November 3 and 4, respectively.
As a result of complaints from Cathay Pacific Airways (Pty.), Ltd.,
The government of Hong Kong in January 1976 suspends traffic rights for both THAI and Air Siam, Ltd. that had forced the British action through a policy of extremely low fares. On April 1, THAI begins DC-8-63 flights to Karachi followed by service to Baghdad on May 1.
Air Siam, Ltd. almost collapses in September following nearly three quarters of airline discontent, a near-employee strike by THAI and TAC workers, government discussions of forced mergers, and extremely poor finances for the independent. THAI’s seventeenth anniversary is celebrated in December while SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System), having been served notice, prepares, under the direction of Station Chief Niels Lumholdt, to turn over its shareholding and speed transfer of control to TAC.
Air Siam, Ltd. ceases operations on January 12, 1977. On February 3, THAI is recognized as the sole international operator for Thailand and the next day Air Siam’s license is revoked. THAI’s first owned (rather than leased) DC-10-30 arrives on March 3 and on March 31 SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) relinquishes the last of its interest to the Thai government’s Ministries of Finance and Communications, which share ownership with TAC. Capt. Lumholdt is asked to remain as a senior executive and accepts.
Also in March, THAI orders two Airbus Industrie A300B4-103s. The first Airbus enters service on November 1 and flights to Seoul, suspended several years earlier, are resumed the next day. Service to Kuwait is inaugurated on November 3.
Enplanements for the year total 869,196.
In 1978, Chairman Air Chief Marshal Panieng Kantarat, who also leads Thai Airways, Ltd., has a workforce of 5,616. All six DC-8-33s are retired as two more A300B4-103s join the fleet. Service is launched to Dhahran on April 4 and in August, orders are placed for three Boeing 747-2D7Bs. The last remaining Air Siam, Ltd. assets are liquidated in September.
Passenger boardings climb 32.3% to 1,281,983 as the carrier passes the million mark annual figure for the first time; freight accelerates 28.7%. On revenues of $213.1 million, expenses are $195.4 million and the profit is $23.5 million.
In January 1979, THAI moves into a new Bangkok headquarters. The fleet during the year is increased by four A300B4-103s and two B-747-2D7Bs, plus a DC-8-62F, the latter beginning all-cargo flights to Europe in April. That month also sees the introduction of service from Bangkok to Hong Kong via Chiangmai (the first international connection from that north Thailand city). Flights are also started to Melbourne and Saudi Arabia in the fall.
In September, Broma Thalang is appointed president. The Jumbojets arrive on November 2 and December 15, respectively, and are painted in a purple, mauve, and gold livery; they are christened Visuthakasatriya and Sirisobhakya and commence Royal Orchid service from Bangkok to Amsterdam via Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam.
Passenger boardings soar 21.2% to 1,553,922 and cargo jumps 26.2%. A net $15.9-million profit is recorded on total revenues of $345.5 million.
The workforce is increased 4.1% in 1980 to 7,000. A third B-747-2D7B is acquired on February 23 and named Dararasmi, allowing introduction of operations to Los Angeles and Seattle via Tokyo on March 30.
Flights to Melbourne commence on April 4. Also in the spring, a 1,486-mile Bangkok-Colombo, Sri Lanka, roundtrip A300B4 service is initiated.
A300/B747 simulators are added to the training base during the summer and a new maintenance hangar is completed.
The fourth B-747-2D7B arrives on September 24; christened Phi-mara, it begins working a route to London on November 1. The next day, A300B4-103 service is initiated to Noumea, New Caledonia, via Manila.
Passenger boardings jump 21.8% to 1.86 million and freight soars 35.6% to 237.57 million FTKs. A net $5.2-million profit is reported.
The employee population grows by 6.7% in 1981 to 7,468 and the carrier enters a new decade with a fleet that comprises 5 B-747-2D7Bs, 2 DC-10-30s, 3 DC-8-63Fs, and 10 A300B4-103s.
Bangkok to Guangzhou service is inaugurated on April 2; the market is the first THAI serves in the People’s Republic of China.
Passenger boardings inch upward 1% to 2.2 million while cargo grows 10.6% to 242 million FTKs. Revenues total $603 million and the net profit is $1.86 million.
The employee population in 1982 swells 9.3% to 8,452. Royal Executive economy-class service is introduced and the fifth B-747-2D7B, Sriwanna, is delivered on March 16. Jumbojet flights to the Australian cities of Perth and Brisbane commence on March 31 and April 2, respectively. In December, joint services are inaugurated with Malaysian Airlines System, Ltd. (MAS) from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, Phukok, Phuket, and Hat Yai and from Penang to Bangkok and Phuket.
Bookings are up 9.9% to 2,402,884 while freight accelerates 27.9% to 320.47 million FTKs. On revenues of $569 million, expenses are up 17.2% to $486.1 million; still, an 18th consecutive profitable year is enjoyed as gains are, respectively, $83.3 million (operating) and $1.15 million (net).
The workforce grows 5.6% in 1983 to 8,928. A direct route to Beijing replaces the Guangzhou service on March 29. Nikorn Meneelert is named executive vice president in October. During the fourth quarter, the decision is jointly taken with TAC to offer interline services on certain long-haul domestic and regional routes. The first shared flights commence on December 1 from Bangkok to the southern community of Phuket.
Cargo this year rises 4.9% to 317.3 million FTKs and passenger traffic advances 4.3% to 2,506,000 passengers boarded. Revenues and expenses are, respectively, $618.4 million and $586.6 million; the operating profit is $31.8 million and the net is $28.4 million.
The payroll climbs 5.7% in 1984 to 9,166 and the fleet includes 5 B-747-27Bs, 10 A300B4-103s, 2 DC-10-30ERs, and 1 DC-8-62. Asixth B-747-2D7B, the Chainarai, is delivered on January 1 as orders are placed for two A300B4-605Rs. Dual-designator flights commence with TAC to Hat Yai, in southern Thailand, on February 4. The first long-haul interline service with TAC is initiated to Cairo via Karachi and Muscat on June 6.
Weekly U. S. frequencies are increased to four with the addition of flights to Seattle and Dallas (DFW). In October, Air Chief Marshal Janya Sukontasp becomes chairman and president, while Vice President-Management Chatrachai Bunya-Ananta succeeds the late Executive Vice President Nikorn Meneelert.
Enplanements are 2,661,120 as freight soars 43.1% to 323.54 million FTKs. The operating profit is $115.85 million and the net income is $80.25 million, the highest in company history and the 20th in a row.
The workforce is up 8.1% in 1985 to 10,700. Twice-weekly B-747-27B service is initiated from Bangkok to Cairo via Karachi on April 1. Four days later, TAC and THAI link up on a frequency to the eastern Malaysian city of Bandar Seri Bagawan. Later in the month, in cooperation with Royal Brunei Airlines, twice-weekly (later thrice-weekly) service is started to Brunei employing RBA’s B-737-2M6C.
On May 1, a domestic terminal and a wide-body maintenance center are opened at Bangkok. Also in May, an agreement is reached with Garuda Indonesian Airlines for joint operations to the holiday island of Bali. The carrier celebrates its twentieth anniversary in June by opening a new cargo terminal at Bangkok. Later in the month, a fourth weekly flight, operated jointly with British Airways, Ltd. (2), is opened to London and a second is inaugurated to Zurich.
In September and October, delivery is taken on the two GE-powered A300B4-600Rs; during the second month, a DC-10-30 is placed on the Perth run. A route is inaugurated to Kiyadh in November and the joint twice-weekly service with Garuda to Bali is opened, employing an Indonesian Airbus.
Passenger boardings climb 10.4% to 2,970,000 and freight rises 5.5% to 421 million FTKs. An operating profit of $38 million (22nd best among all world airlines) and a net profit of $21 million are produced on total revenues of $763 million.
Employment grows 3.6% in 1986 to 11,145. In January, leased DC-8-63F freight service is started Bangkok-Brussels; in February, a new Airfreight Business Development Division is created. Two B-747-3D7s are ordered for 1987 delivery, plus four more A300B4-601s, the first of which arrives in time to begin service over Asian routes by late October. Also in October, Air Chief Marshal Prayad Didyasarin succeeds Air Chief Marshal Janya Sukontasp as chairman.
On October 26, a Japanese Yakuza member smuggles an American-made hand grenade aboard Flight 620, a B-747-2D7B with 247 aboard, prior to its departure for a flight from Bangkok to Osaka, Japan, via Manila. En route at 33,000-ft. over Shikoku Island, the bomb explodes in a rear lavatory, causing a sudden loss of cabin air pressure. After 20 minutes of wild bucking and the long plunge earthward that follows, the pilot is able to recover the aircraft at 6,600 ft. An emergency landing is completed at Osaka 38 min. after the incident; 62 injured passengers are taken to hospital. One of those wounded is the perpetrator, who is arrested,.
On November 1, weekly DC-10-30 service is inaugurated Bangkok-Dusseldorf and Stockholm. On December 8, the carrier postpones a public stock offering after it is determined that profits will be sufficient to fund the next decade’s plans.
Customer bookings accelerate 7% to 3,200,000 as cargo climbs 9% to 463 million FTKs. Revenues advance by 17% to $895 million as expenses rise 15.6% to $838 million. Both the operating profit ($57 million) and net profit ($32 million) are improvements on the previous year.
The payroll is increased by 3.7% in 1987 to 11,558. In honor of the sixtieth birthday of the king, a yearlong “Visit Thailand Year” promotion is undertaken. In July, the carrier’s two DC-10-30s are sold to SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) and two DC-10-30s are purchased new to operate nonstop services from Thailand to Europe. Also in midyear, a new international terminal is opened at Bangkok International Airport. Air Chief Marshal Sukontasap retires in September and is succeeded as chairman/president by Air Chief Marshal Prapan Dhu-patemiya.
In November, an agreement is signed with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) for the creation of a hub-and-spoke operation through Bangkok, with the European airline feeding traffic into Bangkok and THAI carrying it onward; the agreement begins with the winter schedules. On December 5, THAI becomes the first Asian airline to fly to Spain when it launches twice-weekly service from Bangkok to Madrid. Also, on December 3 and 16, respectively, two B-747-3D7Bs are delivered and are christened Chutamat and Suchada.
New weekly roundtrip service is started with TAC to Auckland on December 5, the same day Madrid becomes a European market for both Thai carriers. Two B-737-3D7s are also acquired in December.
Passenger boardings ascend 15.3% to 3,690,000 and freight rises 5.8% to 490,000 pounds. Revenues jump 21.6% to $1.09 billion, expenses are up 19.7% to $1 billion, and a record $53-million net profit is announced.
In January 1988, THAI joins Delta Air Lines and ProTrav, Inc. to offer new $1,295 vacation packages to the Orient; Delta flies travelers to Tokyo where they continue their Asian visits aboard THAI jetliners. THAI and its Thai Airways Company, Ltd. parent are merged on April 1; the combined airline has a route network that includes 47 international destinations and 17 domestic points. Also transferred with the parent are two A310-204s, an A300B4-601, three B-737-2P5As, two Shorts 360s, and four Shorts 330s. In late spring, flights commence to Hanoi, Vienna, and Cairns and a third DC-10-30ER is commissioned in June.
On July 17, thrice-weekly B-747-2D7 service is inaugurated from Bangkok to Toronto via Taipei and Seattle. Also in July, service is inaugurated to Nagoya and Toronto. The seventh A300-601R, a DASH-605R, is delivered in August and in the fall, Ho Chi Minh City becomes a destination. Domestic frequencies are also increased throughout the year as the number of local destinations is increased from 17 to 26. Frequencies to the two major tourist points, Phuket in the south and Chiang Mai in the north, are increased to 40 and 51 weekly flights, respectively.
In October, 18 packaged-tour programs are initiated to leading national tourist attractions and resorts and joint operations commence with Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. (2) on routes from Bangkok to Nagoya and Fukuoka.
Chairman Air Chief Marshal Prayad Didyasarin retires, being succeeded by Air Marshal Werra Kitchathorn. Although Chatrachai Bunya-Ananta remains executive vice president, he and five other key officials are now removed from the airline’s long-term planning committee. Simultaneously, a second executive vice president slot of equal status is created and filled by Vice President-Ground Operations Capt. Udom Krisnampok. The fleet is strengthened by the addition of six B-747-2D7Bs, three DC-10-30ERs, and one more owned Airbus A300B4-601, plus two leased A300B4-622Rs.
Customer bookings increase 36.8% to 4,851,818 while cargo advances 19.3% to 584.19 million FTKs. Revenues jump 27.5% to $1.43 billion, expenses are up 26% to $1.14 billion, and the operating profit is $286.8 million. A record net gain of $258.8 million is reported for the 24th consecutive annual profit.
Early in 1989, the leadership of Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhaven’s new Thai government disapproves the airline’s membership and $40 million investment in the ABACUS reservations system because the group has failed to locate its core in Bangkok. At the end of January, Air Chief Marshal Voranat Aphichan becomes chairman/president, the third in a year.
During the first quarter, known in Bangkok airline circles as “The Black Winter,” service is inaugurated to Christchurch, New Zealand, while the A310-204s are removed from domestic routes and assigned to regional services, leaving local service to the A300B4s and regional aircraft. Simultaneously, two British Aerospace BAe 146s are leased to provide temporary capacity until an order for seven B-737-400s can be filled beginning the following year. Serious delays and flight cancellations reach such a level that the airline’s image begins to be tarnished. Punctuality on occasion slips below 50% and many tourists are stranded with huge bills that tour operators cannot cover. Morale among the airline’s professionals collapses when Capt. Chusak Bhachaiyud, vice president-technical affairs, is accused of corruption and demoted, along with Capt. Prija Thawompradit, vice president-operations.
In October, the carrier increases its flights to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from three times weekly to daily. During the month, Air Chief Marshal Kaset Rojananil becomes chairman and he reverses the personnel decisions of President Weera Kitchathorn. Demoted former senior personnel are reinstated in their old jobs; however, a power struggle continues. Work is begun on two additional maintenance hangars at Bangkok.
A B-747-2D7 en route from Seattle to Tokyo on December 14, mistakenly reverses course over the northern Pacific and wanders 600 miles off its flight path before it is alerted by air traffic controllers, who assist it to make a safe landing at Anchorage. The incident marks the largest deviation from a Pacific flight path ever made by a jetliner. The merger with Thai Airways Company, Ltd., meanwhile, produces a traffic bonanza.
Bookings at the 13,552-employee airline jump 28.2% to 7,394,199 while cargo is ahead by 11.1% to 649.26 million FTKs. Revenues total $1.8 billion and a profit of $290 million is generated.
The 13,552-employee carrier remains profitable in 1990, despite the deepening world economic crisis. Plans are announced in February for the government to expend $118 million over the next 6 years to develop terminals and technical facilities at 24 provincial airports. Late in the month, the first B-747-4D7 arrives, following a delivery flight from Seattle to Bangkok. In preparation for possible service several years hence, an office is opened in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in March and a tourism campaign is launched aimed at attracting Latin American travelers to Thailand. Additionally, twice-weekly nonstop roundtrips commence between Bangkok and Helsinki, with a single weekly roundtrip flight from the Thai capital to Munich via Copenhagen.
A mutual-cooperation agreement is signed with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) in July, under which a joint supervisory board is formed, with two representatives from each airline, to implement, coordinate, and administer strategies and activities. The first of seven ordered B-737-400s arrives in August.
Two Burmese students, carrying a fake bomb, hijack Flight 305, an A300B4-622R, to Calcutta on November 10 to dramatize their demands for an end to military rule in Myanmar (formerly Burma). All 219 passengers and crew are released over a six-hour period before the pirates surrender.
In October and November, North American service is increased from four flights weekly to daily between Bangkok and Seattle and six times per week to Toronto via Seattle. Skyrocketing fuel prices during November cause the airline to cut back on its European sectors and eliminate service to Dusseldorf entirely.
Passenger boardings for the year ascend 15.5% to 8,537,355 and freight climbs 33.6% to 867.31 million FTKs. The cargo figure is 24th best among all of the world’s airlines. Revenues advance 11.9% to $1.93 billion, 22nd highest, and expenses allow operating income to total $268 million, 5th best in the world. This is the 26th consecutive operating profit.
Company employment is cut a slight 0.3% in 1991 to 13,500 and the fleet now includes 2 Aerospatiale-Aeritalia ATR42-300s, 2 ATR72-212s, 9 owned and 4 leased A300B4s, 1 A300C4, 7 owned A300B4-601s, 2 chartered A300B4-622Rs, 3 owned A310-204s, 5 leased British Aerospace BAe 146-300s, 3 B-737-2P5As, 3 B-737-4D7s, 5 owned and 1 leased B-747-2D7Bs, 2 B-747-3D7s, 4 B-747-4D7s, 3 DC-10-30ERs, and 2 MD-11s. Orders are outstanding for 5 A300B4-622Rs, 4 A330-302s, 6 A330-321s, 2 BAe 146-300s, 4 B-747-4D7s, 6 B-777-2D7s, and 5 MD-11s.
Due to spiraling fuel and other costs, an austerity program is initiated at the beginning of the year. Chairman/CEO Air Chief Marshal Ro-jananil is one of the leaders of the successful February 23 military coup against the government and is able to make management changes beginning in March. At that time, Executive Vice President Chatrachai Bunya-Ananta becomes executive vice president-commercial and Capt. Udom Krisnampok becomes executive vice president-technical as the new leadership structure converts from two levels of senior management to three and decision making is decentralized.
It is announced in April that partial privatization will still leave the government holding 75% majority shareholding. The first of five BAe 146-300s is added at the end of May.
During the summer, services are suspended to Helsinki, Auckland, and Cairns. Services are inaugurated from Bangkok to Perth via Phuket and from Bangkok to Los Angeles via Seoul. In September, B-747-4D7s inaugurate a third weekly frequency from Bangkok to Rome and Madrid. The planned partial privatization announced for October 1 is postponed, even as Air Chief Marshal Rojananil becomes leader of the Thai armed forces. Twice-weekly MD-11 service is started from Bangkok to Brussels and Zurich on October 27; the same day, A300-622Rs launch thrice-weekly flights from Chiang Mai to Hong Kong and Taipei.
The Gulf crisis impacts traffic as customer bookings slide 6.1% to 8,016,303 while cargo slips slightly to 867.15 million FTKs. Revenues total $2 billion and the 27th operating profit in a row is generated: $197.3 million.
During the first quarter of 1992, plans are finalized for the airline’s May partial privatization. A total of 7.3% shareholding (100 million shares) will be made available at a price of $2.35 each. In May, Thailand is rocked by political turmoil and in June, Transport and Communications Minister Nukui Prachuabmoh orders an investigation into allegations of corruption at the airline headed by the nation’s supreme military commander, Air Chief Marshal Rojananil.
While on descent to Kathmandu on a July 31 service from Bangkok, Flight 311, a chartered A310-304 with 14 crew and 99 passengers, crashes 25 mi. N of the runway in the Himalayan mountains. Monsoon rains hamper rescue teams’ efforts to find the wreckage, but troops reach the accident site on the side of a snowy mountain on August 3, finding no survivors.
Partial privatization occurs in August as 7.14% of the governments shares are listed by the Securities Exchange of Thailand. The company is now officially known as Thai Airways International pcl; however, we will continue to refer to it here as Thai Airways International, Ltd. (THAI) for consistency in the conclusion and cross-referencing of this profile.
The nation’s new Air Force chief, Gen. Gun Pimarnthip, becomes the airline’s new chairman, also in August. In September, Gun becomes vice chairman as Finance Ministry Permanent Secretary Pandit Bunyapana becomes the airline’s first-ever nonmilitary leader. Simultaneously, veteran Executive Vice President Chatrachal Bunya-Ananta succeeds Air Chief Marshal Weera Kitchathorn as president and begins a corporate reorganization.
In October, services are inaugurated from Bangkok to Bali, Phnom Penh, and Fukuoka. Before the international media, the carrier’s first ever corporate planning is held at Bangkok on November 12; with an on-time record of only 78%, the theme chosen for the meeting is “On Time Performance.”
Passenger boardings ascend 11.7% to 8,951,689 and freight traffic swells 6.8% to 926.34 million FTKs. Revenues inch up to $2.1 billion and although a $114.34-million operating loss is suffered, a $132.89 million-net gain is chalked up.
The employee population grows 2.3% in 1993 to 19,458. The fleet is altered as two A300B4-601s are withdrawn and are succeeded by five A300B4-622Rs, four B-737-4D7s, three B-747-4D7s, two MD-11s, and a Canadair CL-601 Challenger. In April, it is announced that orders for seven A330-321s and a B-747-400 have been deferred while options on seven A330s and six B-777s are given up.
En route from London to Bangkok aboard a company Jumbojet on July 8, Chairman Bunyapana dies in his sleep of a heart attack. The new acting chairman is Vice Chairman Gun Pimarnthip, who remains commander in chief of the Thai Air Force. The carrier bans the use of laptop computers and CD-players during takeoffs and landings, beginning on August 1.
In addition to its domestic network, the state carrier of the expanding Asian “Mini Dragon” flies to 51 destinations in 31 nations Amsterdam, Athens, Auckland, Bandar Seri Begawan, Beijing, Brisbane, Brussels, Calcutta, Chiang Mai, Copenhagen, Dhaka, Delhi, Frankfurt, Hanoi, Hai Yai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kao-hsiung, Karachi, Kathmandu, Kota Kinabulu, Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Manila, Melbourne, Munich, Muscat, Nagoya, Osaka, Paris, Penang, Perth, Phuket, Rome, Seattle, Seoul, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo, Toronto, Vienna, Vientiane, Yangon, and Zurich.
Senior Vice President-Finance Thamnoon Wanglee is chosen by the board in September to succeed the retiring Chatrachai Bunya-Ananta as president for a two-year trial period, beginning on October 1.
Customer bookings increase 18.8% to 10,637,751 while cargo jumps 14.6% to 1.06 billion FTKs. Although revenues are up 7.6% to $2.05 billion, expenses are $2.13 billion. The operating loss is cut to $107.94 million and a $40.36-million net gain is realized.
The workforce is increased another 5.6% in 1994 to 20,356 and the company’s shareholders appoint a new 15-member board of directors in January. Former TAF commander in chief and airline Chairman Gun Pi-marnthip is removed from the board and is succeeded by Kasem Suwanakul, the former education minister. On October 10, the company signs an agreement with Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. to expand the Thai carrier’s German passenger and cargo operations; under terms of the pact, THAI will increase its flights from Bangkok to Germany from five to seven per week and both airlines will operate as code-sharing partners.
A certification dispute with Airbus Industrie in September further delays the delivery of several A330-321s. The manufacturer will eventually pay compensation for loss of revenues higher than allowed for in the purchase contract; the dispute will be resolved in December and three A330-322s are delivered.
Meanwhile, on October 22, an MD-11 is badly damaged when, during engine runs at the Bangkok base, it jumps its chocks and smashes into a parked A300B4-203. It will take months for repairs to be completed to the U. S.-built wide-body, while the Airbus must be withdrawn from service.
Passenger boardings for the year jump 12.6% to 11,501,787 while freight ascends 17.4% to 1.197 billion ton kilometers. Revenues increase by 8.6% to $2,178,191 while expenses move up 3.2% to $2,182,382. As a result, there is an operating loss of $4,191,000. Electing to recognize discounts on aircraft purchases as income, this figure is adjusted to show an operating profit of $74.4 million. The company also realizes a net gain of $168.5 million.
Airline employment in 1995 stands at 21,906, a 7.6% increase. Early in the year, dual-designator flights commence with Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. (2) between Bangkok and Osaka (KIX).
The company’s premier B-777-2D7 is delivered during the first week of April; it will be the first to employ the Rolls-Royce Trent engine in revenue services.
On June 5 a new code-sharing and strategic arrangement is signed with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System), which has recently entered into a comprehensive alliance with the German major Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. Under terms of the agreement with the Scandinavians, THAI will share passenger lounges, ground handling, advanced-seat reservations, frequent flyer mileage, and other amenities, as well as codes on all of its flights to or from Norway, Sweden, or Denmark.
With the arrival of the second B-777-2D7, flights are inaugurated in June from Bangkok to Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Singapore, and Delhi.
When the U. S.-Thailand bilateral air agreement is suspended by Thailand in early July because of Washington’s requirement for greater access to Bangkok, THAI makes it known that, although it also supports Japan in that country’s discussions with the U. S. over beyond-flights for Federal Express, discussions for a proposed around-the-world pact with Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. and United Airlines will not be disrupted.
After a new coalition government takes office in July, Air Chief Marshal Siripong Thongyai is named acting chairman.
Also during the summer, routes are opened to Athens and Istanbul. The pact with SAS becomes trilateral in October when a similar agreement is entered into with Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. The new pact will create 430 code-sharing weekly passenger connections as well as a joint freighter service between Bangkok and Frankfurt. Also during the month, a trilateral around-the-world service is initiated with United Airlines and Lauda Air Luftfahlgesellschaft, A. G., the latter replacing Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. The new thrice-weekly flights allow dualdesignator code-sharing via Bangkok with THAI, Los Angeles or San Francisco with United Airlines, and Vienna via Lauda Air, A. G. The big winner in this arrangement is Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. in that its pact with Lauda Air, A. G. provides the German major with an alternative service from Frankfurt to Sydney, Australia.
Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. joins THAI on October 31 in inaugurating new joint weekly return flights from Frankfurt to Chiang Mai, Phuket, Phnom Penh, Yangon, and Auckland; additionally, the two will offer two weekly roundtrip frequencies between Munich and Bangkok and seven per week from Frankfurt to Bangkok.
Joint services with Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd. (2) are increased seven-fold in November; services from Bangkok to Fukuoka, Osaka, and Nagoya are increased to nine per week. Additionally, JAL begins to code-share on THAI frequencies from Bangkok to New Delhi.
At the annual stockholders meeting in December, Acting Chairman Air Chief Marshal Thongyai, the Royal Thai Air Force commander who had also acted as the airline’s CEO for the past six months, is confirmed in the latter post.
Customer bookings climb 11.9% to 13,251,299 and cargo moves ahead by 5.8% to 1.3 billion FTKs. Operating revenues swell 11.3% to $4.7 billion, while costs are up only 7.4% to $2.29 billion. Operating gain jumps to $149.3 million and net profit reaches $182.4 million. The operating line is later adjusted upward to $193.9 million.
The workforce is increased by 3.7% in 1996 to 22,723.
A contract is entered into with Langdon Asset Management Co. on May 1 under which LAMC, acting as agent, acquires six B-747-2D7Bs from THAI for resale to Atlas Air. All will be delivered over the next 18 months and converted by Boeing at Wichita, with the first entering service with the American freighter during the fourth quarter. The trilateral pact with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) and Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. takes effect on June 1. On June 18 the company enters into a three-year contract with the American freight operator Atlas Air for the wet-lease of B-747-200Fs.
The $256-million agreement with Atlas Air commences during the fourth quarter as the first of the newly converted ex-THAI Jumbojets reaches Atlas. It is employed to start new cargo routes opened to Los Angeles via Osaka and Anchorage and to Frankfurt via Sharjah.
Just 24 hrs. before the start of a shareholders meeting on December 24, Transport Ministry official Mahidol Chantyrangkurn is told that he has been nominated for the post of airline chairman. He is duly elected to the post, replacing Air Chief Marshal Siripong Thongyai. The board, also newly installed, authorizes the new CEO to place 21 new Boeing and Airbus aircraft worth $2.6 billion.
Enplanements shoot up another 11.5% to 14,308,270 and 1.32 billion FTKs are operated, a 4.3% increase. Operating income advances 6.6% to $2.59 billion while costs climb 9.1% to $2.48 billion. The operating profit reaches $231.21 million, while after-tax income totals $193.9 million.
Airline employment is cut almost in half in 1997, dropping 49.7% to 11,300, with most layoffs occurring after the summer currency crisis begins.
Sydney Organizing Committee CEO Mal Hemerling and Ansett Australia (Pty.), Ltd. Chairman Rod Eddington announce on January 28, that THAI has been chosen one of seven carriers to receive the designation of official carrier for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. In an effort to deal with the nation’s growing economic crisis, Thailand’s Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh makes a series of budget cuts during the month. He requests that THAI delay its aircraft purchase and lease only those aircraft necessary to maintain services.
As the result of a study undertaken by a management consulting company, the carrier, in March, reorganizes its top management functions according to a plan approved by the Ministry of Finance. The new structure is designed to streamline the company’s hierarchy.
The government, in April, once more gives THAI the green light to purchase $2.6 billion in new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. The delayed plan will see 31 aircraft retired as the new planes arrive through the year 2000. Among the withdrawals will be five BAe 146-300, which will exit at the end of the year and be turned over to the new U. K. discount airline Debonair Airways, Ltd.
With considerable fanfare on May 14, THAI joins with its marketing partners Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G., Air Canada, Ltd., SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System), and United Airlines in an enhanced joint venture marketing venture to be called “Star Alliance.” The new alliance, seen in some quarters as a counter to the proposed British Airways, Ltd. (2)-American Airlines arrangement, will stitch together the operational and marketing efforts of all five airlines.
Employees of the five will be able to share ticket offices and airport services and jointly purchase supplies. They will also contribute to joint promotional and advertising campaigns to be handled by the New York firm of Young & Rubicam Advertising, which is given a $25-million budget to publicize unified efforts. Travelers on any of the carriers will be able to accumulate and cash in frequent flyer mileage from any of the five. VARIG Brasilian Airlines (Viacao Aereo Roi-Grandense, S. A.) will join the group in October and negotiations are underway to bring in such other airlines as South African Airways (Pty.), Ltd. and British Midland Airways, Ltd.
The long-delayed aircraft order is finally placed during June. Requested for 1998 delivery are 4 A330-321s and 5 A300B4-622Rs; additionally, 19 Pratt & Whitney POW4000 engines, valued at $210 million, are also ordered.
Despite the chaos following Hun Sen’s coup in Cambodia and the fighting at and near Phnom Penh’s Pochentong Airport, the company continues flying into the beleaguered capital from Bangkok during the second week of July. It is the only foreign airline to do so.
A severe foreign-exchange problem strikes Thailand in July and continues. Over the next six months, the baht will fall 36% against the U. S. dollar. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry resists a Transport and Communications Ministry proposal to further privatize the company and lower its government’s 93% stake. Local media cite government sources that claim that opposition to the sale has arisen because it is realized that the International Monetary Fund might have a claim on any revenues.
In a report picked up and distributed by the Agence France Presse English wire service on October 2, the Bangkok daily newspaper Nation is quoted as reporting that THAI is under pressure to withdrawn from the “Star Alliance.” With THAI officials complaining that the airline has been unable to show adequate progress on an action plan for global cooperation because it is still under control of the Finance and Transportation Ministries, it is noted that “sources close to” Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. have the German major suggesting that the more-efficient Singapore Airlines, Ltd. would make a preferable partner. German airline officials deny the contention.
In late November, the government, in a petition to the International Monetary Fund, pledges to reduce its stake in the national airline from 98% to below 50% within the next six months.
On December 22, the company’s governing board agrees to a privatizing plan that will see the government stake cut from 93% to 70% through a series of public offerings. A delay in Boeing’s delivery schedule means that the BAe 146-300s cannot be withdrawn at year’s end.
Passenger boardings rise 2.3% to 14,981,897 while cargo moves ahead by 20.3% to 1.6 billion FTKs. Operating revenues (reported at the end of September) climb 8.5% to $2.07 billion, while costs are $1.85 billion. Although a $221-million operating profit is reported, a gigantic $732.91-million net loss is suffered.
At the beginning of 1998, THAI is the 19th largest airline in the world in terms of operating profit and 21st in passenger boardings and freight carried. Airline employment stands at 11,309 and the fleet, all of which is Stage III certified, includes 76 airplanes: 9 B-737s, 15 B-747s, 7 B-777s, 23 A300s, 2 A310s, 8 A330s, 5 BAe 146s, 3 DC-10s, and 4 MD-11s.
The five BAe 146-300s are retired in February; they will be returned to British Aerospace for refurbishment and painting and will be forwarded to Debonair Airways, Ltd. during the second and third quarters.
On March 17, three DC-10-30ERs are sold to Alliance AirInvest; the financing company will lease the planes to another carrier.
Flight 664, an MD-11 arriving from Bangkok on April 12, skids off the runway after landing in heavy rain at Shanghai. Although no injuries are reported, the airport is briefly closed, affecting more than 100 flights.
Discussions concerning privatization are held and in June the government authorizes the sale of 235 million shares, thereby reducing its stake to 72%. Qantas Airways (Pty.), Ltd. expresses interest in acquisition. To raise capital, THAI is also granted permission to issue 100 million new shares of common stock.
A working group is established by the board of directors on August 3 to organize a long-term strategic plan for the airline’s growth. The Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA) announces on September 2 that, in its survey of on-time service for 1997, THAI ranks first.
The carrier’s new B-777-3D7 makes a predelivery appearance at the Farnborough Air Show at London on September 9. Between September 9 and 11, THAI hosts a meeting of the “Star Alliance” Purchasing Steering Committee at the company’s head office, while simultaneously holding a “Star Alliance” Trade Fair.
The Cambodia Daily newspaper reports on September 23 that, because of a failure in control tower meteorological equipment at Phnom Penh, a THAI aircraft had experienced minor problems in making its landing on September 20. As a result, the airline had suspended flights into the Cambodian capital for two days until repairs can be completed.
Flight 775, an MD-11 with 400 passengers en route to Bangkok is forced to return to Osaka (KIX) on September 22 with engine problems. An uneventful landing is made and no injuries are reported.
On October 25, code-sharing begins with Emirates Airlines, Ltd. on all passenger and cargo flights. Together, the two airlines will offer seven weekly roundtrips between Bangkok and Dubai.
The new winter schedule begins on October 26. The current seven weekly roundtrips from Bangkok to Los Angeles via Osaka (KIX) will be maintained, while the number of roundtrips operating to Europe will grow from 29 to 47 each week.
Daytime flights now operate on the thrice-weekly routes from Bangkok to London, while the number of weekly roundtrips between Bangkok and Paris grows from four to seven. The company introduces thrice-weekly direct services from Bangkok to Stockholm, cutting out the Paris stop.
Due to the current dismal economic situation, the weekly roundtrip passenger service to Amsterdam is suspended; all-cargo services are, however, continued. The five weekly flight operations previously undertaken between Bangkok and Amsterdam via Zurich are replaced with daily roundtrips between Bangkok and Zurich.
Although daily services are maintained from Bangkok to Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Auckland, THAI ends its four weekly roundtrips from Bangkok to Sydney via Jakarta.
New twice-weekly flights are initiated between Phuket and Seoul via Taipei. Also in the region, the airline increases the frequency of its weekly Bangkok to Kunming flights from 5 to 7, to Guangzhou from 3 to 4, to Yangon from 12 to 14, and to Phnom Penh from 10 to 14. Within Thailand, weekly frequencies operating from Bangkok to Chiang Mai increase to 58, Chiang Rai and Pitsanulok to 21, and Phuket to 64. The number of roundtrips between Bangkok and Mae Hong jumps from 21 to 28 weekly flights.
At a November 30 ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the minister of transport, THAI and Rolls-Royce officials open the largest engine test cell in Asia. The facility is located at the airline’s Bangkok technical base.
The two ATR72-212s operating daily between Bangkok and Nakhon Srithammarat are replaced on December 1 with a B-737-4D7.
THAI is the official airline and caterer of the 13 th Asian Games, which are held for a week at Bangkok beginning on December 6.
As the result of passenger complaints and in cooperation with the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, THAI, on December 8, becomes the first foreign airline permitted to stop the use of aircraft disinfectant spray inside the cabin prior to landing.
Having arrived at Surat Thani after a December 11 service from Bangkok, Flight 261, the A310-204 Phitsanoluk with 14 crew and 132 passengers encounters limited visibility and heavy rainfall. While on its third landing attempt, the Airbus crashes 3 km. S of the airport in a swamp on a rubber plantation.
Forty-five of those aboard survive, including 12 of the 25 foreigners aboard. On December 13, Chairman Wanglee tells a news conference that THAI will pay all medical expenses for the survivors and provide each of them with $5,600 in compensation. The airline will also pay $100,000 in compensation to the relatives of all of the dead.
Despite the UN’s armed dispute with Iraq, THAI, on December 17, maintains its scheduled services from Bangkok to both Dubai and Muscat.
The carrier’s technical department receives maintenance certification from the European Joint Aviation Authorities on December 18.
The company’s first B-777-3D7 is delivered in ceremonies at Everett, Washington, on December 23. The aircraft is christened Sriwanna in honor of a now-retired THAI B-747. To accommodate holiday traffic, as many as five extra B-747-4D7 roundtrips are now offered from Bangkok to Hong Kong. These flights will continue to January 2. Extra Airbus frequencies are added on domestic routes.
During the 12 months, passenger boardings climb 4.2% to 15.61 million, while cargo traffic falls 6.1% to 1.52 billion FTKs.
On January 1, 1999, the carrier’s float “The Kingdom of Thailand” receives the “Craftsman Award” at the 110th Rose Parade at Pasadena, California.
The Thai Minister of Transport and the airline’s chairman are both on hand on January 20 as young Apichart Petchart, a survivor of the Flight 261 disaster, departs for medical treatment in Germany.
The annual board meeting is held at Bangkok on January 21 and results in the appointment of several new members and the establishment of special committees to review safety, the technical department, and conduct audits.
A second B-777-3D7, the Chainarai, arrives in January.
Thai Transport and Communications Minister Suthep Thaugsuban announces on February 18 that his government may not be able to allow Singapore Airlines, Ltd. to hold a stake in THAI because state enterprise laws do not permit it to accept strategic partners that are also business competitors. Singapore and Star Alliance partner Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. will lobby the other members of the airline pact to make a joint equity purchase into the airline using the alliance as the agent.
THAI is unsuccessful in its attempt to cancel its aircraft orders. However, in March, Airbus Industrie agrees to allow the carrier to delay delivery of an A330-323X until July 2000, while Boeing agrees to a one-month moratorium on progress payments for a pair of B-777-300s due to arrive early in the new year.
All flights become nonsmoking on March 28. In April, the company announces that it will at some point privatize its THAI-Aircraft Engineering Services Company by selling a 50% stake to another, probably foreign, concern.
Worker opposition to the engineering sale continues to manifest itself in speeches and broadsides throughout the remainder of the month and into May. On May 5,900 engineers and mechanics stage a protest rally at Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport, listening as their leader, Charnchit Sukreungrong, denounces the projected foreign interest and threatens to lead a strike that will ground the company’s flights the next day. Sukre-ungrong’s rally follows a similar outburst against foreign ownership staged by workers of the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand the week before.
THAI Chairman Wanglee sends word to the disgruntled workers early the next morning that he will meet with them to discuss the pending divisional sale. The conciliatory action averts the threatened strike.
Passenger boardings accelerate 6.3% to 16,593,000, while cargo jumps 9.7% to 1,672,801,000 FTKs. Operating revenues rise 2.1% to $2.83 billion, while costs dip 2% to $2.38 million. Operating gain rises to $452 million, while the net profit falls to $140 million.