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COVID-19: Thai Airways to retire A380s, A330s and 747s under restructuring plan

Thai Airways is the latest airline to bid farewell to the Airbus A380, potentially spelling the end for the carrier's First Class cabins.

It’s more bad news for fans of four-engined jumbos and First Class cabins this week, with Star Alliance member Thai Airways confirming that it will significantly shrink its fleet and workforce as part of a rehabilitation exercise to help it survive the COVID-19 downturn.

The beleaguered carrier, which is in the process of finalising its debt restructuring programme, will not return three aircraft types into service, comprising:

  • 6 Airbus A380s
  • 15 Airbus A330s
  • 7 Boeing 747s

The airline will also lay off 395 of its 1,300 pilots, around a 30% cut, to right-size its workforce for a reduced fleet and operation post-pandemic, according to reports by The Nation.

Thai’s financial woes

Even before COVID-19, Thai’s financial situation was precarious. The airline had struggled to counter competition from Middle East carriers on lucrative routes to and from Europe and from low-cost carriers closer to home over recent years.


That led to Thai being unprofitable for all but one of the seven consecutive years before COVID-19, and the need for government bailouts in the past.

In June 2020, we reported how Thai had suspended its members’ use of Royal Orchid Miles to redeem on Star Alliance and partner airlines, in addition to hotel and selected lifestyle awards, to help plug cash payments to partners for new bookings.

That situation continues to this day, though Royal Orchid Plus miles can still be used to redeem Thai Airways and Thai Smile flights. Unfortunately, apart from domestic services, Thai’s operating schedules remain very limited with just 10 international destinations served at the time of writing.

Thai Airways future fleet

This latest element of Thai’s restructuring will leave the carrier focused on its more efficient Airbus A350, Boeing 787 and Boeing 777-300ER aircraft for its future fleet, also leaving the future of its First Class cabin in doubt.

It’s a far cry from the carrier’s pre-pandemic fleet, which at January 2020 boasted no fewer than six different aircraft types (10 if you counted all the variants).