BANGKOK: Thai Airways International (THAI) recently announced that they will revive their flights to Tehran from 01 October 2016 and resume flights to Moscow in December 2016.
THAI have introduced promotional rates to Tehran to the market and commenced marketing Experience the Beauty of Persia. They are expected to have similar promotions for their resumption of the Moscow flights.
The three weekly flights between Bangkok and the capital city of Iran will start on October 1. Four flights per week between Bangkok and Moscow will restart on December 15.
Speaking to the media with regard to Tehran, THAI president Charamporn Jotikasthira announced that the airline will capitalise on the lifting of sanctions with Iran, one of the most promising markets for business.
According to Thai Airways International, there is a strong demand for direct flights to Tehran and there are already 250,000 Iranians visiting Thailand every year.
Infrastructure and services needs for Iran makes it also a potentially attractive business destination for Thai companies.
THAI abandon their service to Tehran in 1979, the year of the Iran revolution.
THAI will resume their service to Moscow on the 15 December. Flights to Russia were suspended during the company's restructuring.
Back in January there were talks of the possibility of THAI going bankrupt, however more recently there is renewed optimism and it looks as though the national carrier may have turned the corner.
I recently travelled BKK-LON-BKK on THAI's new A380. I travelled business class at my own expense. From a comfort and service point of view it was very evident that THAI is back and they well deserves their recent Skytrax Award 2016 as the World's Most Improved Airline.
The aircraft, service and facilities were world class. It is so important to have a modern fleet; no one knows this better than other ASEAN airlines and the Middle Eastern carriers, who have been chipping away at THAI's market share for years. It is easy to understand the new optimism - it was a great flight experience made all the more enjoyable with modern technology and great service.
THAI have embarked on a major restructuring following huge losses in 2014 and 2015.
In the first quarter of 2016, THAI announced on the 20 April, that revenue of the carrier was 48.8 billion baht ($1.35 billion), missing its target by just one per cent, whereas spending was cut by 13 per cent or about 1 billion baht ($28 million). To bring it on par with its main rival carriers.
THAI is also seeking to raise its seat-occupancy rate to 80 per cent from 75 per cent in 2015 and 69 per cent in 2014. In addition, it plans to raise the ratio of air tickets sold online from 16 per cent to an industry average of between 30 and 40 per cent.
The restructuring appears to be working. THAI's seat occupancy was already at 78 per cent. Also 21 million passengers used the airline in 2015, up 11 per cent from 2014.
Fuel surcharges however continue to rankle customers, even though oil prices have fallen sharply, hedging has tied in higher fuel charges for most of 2016.
Mr. Charamporn Jotikasthira, also recently announced that the company has ordered 12 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft (Extra Wide Body), which will greatly modernise the fleet and maintain the airline's quality standards and provide passengers with more convenience.
The first two aircraft, each with a price list of US$350m, after an initial period flying on regional services between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, the aircraft will be deployed on long-haul flights, starting in Sept/Oct 2016.
Currently, THAI has 23 Airbus aircraft in its fleet. The new Airbus A350 is among 14 planes purchased by THAI. Of the 14 aircraft, twelve are Airbus A350 XWB and two are Boeing 787.
Melbourne will be the first city to welcome THAI's brand new Airbus A350 XWB and Sydney next year – once Australian authorities give their approval, which is expected shortly.
The A350 XWB is branded the world's most advanced twin-aisle aircraft, Airbus' response to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
They are a vital part of THAI's future fleet strategy along with the A380. They are quickly needed to bring back THAI to the pinnacle it once enjoyed for so many years.