This is part of a series called Past, Present, and Future. It covers the past, present, and future of airlines from around the world.
Thai Airways was founded in the year of 1988 and also is one of the founding members of Star Alliance. Since its founding, the airline had seen success. It has capaitalized on its success by buying 21% of Thai low-cost carrier Nok Air and launching Thai Smile, a regional carrier, with Airbus A320s in 2012.
Thai Airways’ main hubs are at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International and Phuket International Airport. The airline currently flies to 91 destinations with a fleet of 81 aircraft.
For a time, Thai flew the largest service from Bangkok to Los Angles but ended it due to dwindling demand.
When Thai was founded, it had a joint venture with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which held a 30% share of the airline. This was aimed at launching Thai’s international operations. SAS helped Thai by providing training for operational, managerial and marketing with the aim of helping Thai become an independent, autonomous carrier.
Thai took its first independent flight on 1 May 1960 and operated to 9 Asian countries from Bangkok. In 1967, the airline started its first ever inter-continental service using the Douglas DC-8 to fly to Australia. The next year, Thai launched service to Europe with its DC-10. In 1977, after 17 years of SAS investment, Thailand’s government bought out the remaining 15% share, making Thai Airways government-owned.
In the 2000s, Thai expanded its route network with services to to Change, Busan, Chennai, Xiamen, Milan, Moscow, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Johannesburg (later suspended), and Oslo. They used the Airbus 340-500, which they received in 2005, on many of their routes. Thai launched service to Los Angeles but only filled 80% of its seats, leading to cost cutting measures. Thai discounted its flight to New York and reduced weekly frequencies on its Bangkok-Seoul-Los Angeles route to one.
During and after Thailand’s political riots, Thai Air faced five years of low demand. It came close to filing for bankruptcy, but it survived and became the airline it is today.
Right now, Thai Airways is reporting a growth in passenger traffic and profit. Thai is considering operating to the US again but will likely fly to San Francisco or Seattle instead of Los Angeles or New York.
The future of Thai Airways looks bright, especially considering planned routes for the future. The airline will make its country and government proud.