Thai Airways International (THAI) has become the eighth operator of the A350 XWB, following the delivery today of the first of 12 aircraft set to join the carrier’s fleet. The aircraft delivered today is being operated on lease from US-based CIT.
After an initial period flying on regional services between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the aircraft will be deployed on long haul flights soon thereafter, starting with the Bangkok-Melbourne route.
Altogether THAI has acquired 12 A350-900s with four of these are being purchased directly from Airbus, with the other eight aircraft being acquired under lease agreements.
The national carrier’s president, Charamporn Jotikasthira said recently that the new long-haul aircraft would enable it to relaunch flights to to North America. But the destination focus is likely shift from major cities like Los Angeles and New York to those with a shorter flight time and less intense competition such as Seattle and Vancouver.
But a key hurdle facing THAI’s return to the US however, is the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) downgrading of Thailand’s safety rating. An unsatisfactory audit by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) led to Thailand being audited by the FAA and subsequently downgraded to Category 2 last year. Until the country returns to Category 1 status, THAI will be unable to launch any new routes to the US.