Sunday, January 06, 2013

National airline envisions aviation hub: THAI gearing up for expansion of services

TOULOUSE : Thai Airways International (THAI) envisions turning the country into a hub for air travel, aircraft maintenance and aviation training.

THAI president Sorajak Kasemsuvan said the ambition, if realized, would keep the national airline competitive in the regional, commercial aviation industry.

Stiff competition from rivals spurred the national airline to pursue the developments, he said.

The country can offer a good location for an aviation maintenance center, and the country's airports could be expanded to cope with air traffic growth, he said.

Actions should also be taken to turn Thailand into the region's leader in pilot and aviation crew training, Mr Sorajak added.

Montree Jumrieng, executive vice-president of THAI's technical department, earlier said the airline is due to sign an agreement with Airbus in mid-February to build a corporate training center at its compound in Laksi.

THAI will also invest 30 million baht to upgrade its computerised system, which is needed for aviation maintenance work.

Mr Montree said THAI trains aviation crews from low-cost airlines and crews of airlines based in neighboring countries.

The carrier has the human resources required to train pilots and the partnership with Airbus will enable Thailand to increase its training capabilities, he said.

Mr Sorajak said airlines are battling fiercely to expand their market shares.

He said the introduction of the super-jumbo Airbus A380-800 to THAI's fleet has enabled the airline to improve passenger's flight comfort and experience.

The airline currently operates three of the super jumbos and another three will be delivered this year.

He said the aircraft has proven popular, especially on long-haul routes, because the cabins are spacious and quiet.

"THAI is gearing up," Mr Sorajak said. "We want [customers] to feel they should fly on our A380 [jets] at least once in their lifetime."

The national carrier is expecting the delivery of 17 new planes this year, including the additional super jumbos, with new routes planned for destinations around Asia.

The frequency of flights on some existing domestic and international routes will also be increased, he said.

Mr Sorajak said the airline is expanding its reach to cater to the expanding tourism and business markets.

John Blanchfield, Airbus's Director of Technical Marketing, said global air passenger traffic is expected to grow at an average of 4.7% per year in the next 20 years.

Asia-Pacific will remain the region with the highest demand for commercial aircraft, he said.

Fuel efficiency in modern aircraft of all types and sizes is improving, Mr Blanchfield said.

He said Airbus has received 12,000 orders for its planes.

About 7,500 of those orders have been delivered so far, he said.


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