Thai Airways last night announced that it was delaying the launch of A380 services between Heathrow & Bangkok.
A statement from the airline read: “Thai Airways regrets to announce that due to important technical modifications, the A380 will not be able to commence its operation on the Heathrow- Bangkok route as planned from December 1, 2013. Tentative operational date has been set on October 30, 2014.” Instead of the A380, Thai Airways will now operate one 747-400 and one A340-600 on the route.
The airline has not elaborated on the exact ‘technical modifcations’ required but, considering that they already operate the A380 between Bangkok and both Paris & Frankfurt, one does wonder if we are being told the whole truth.
It was only a matter of weeks ago that the airline announced the launch of A380 services between Heathrow & Bangkok and, at the time, we questioned whether British Airways had a future on one of the world’s most competitive routes. Since then however, British Airways have anounced a tie-up with Bangkok Airways which will allow passengers to connect onto onward flights to Chiang Mai, Koh Samui & Phuket.
Although British Airways has switched from a 747-400 to a smaller 777-200 on the route, the original service to Bangkok was a stop-over en-route to Sydney. The new service is a stand-alone flight to Bangkok and therefore very similar in terms of overall capacity (although there will be no First class).
When Thai Airways first ordered the A380, many years ago now, it (together with Malaysia & Singapore Airlines) had a much higher share of the ‘Kangaroo Route’ between Europe and Australia / New Zealand and the new aircraft would have been seen as an ideal opportunity to strengthen its position in the market. What the airline failed to anticipate was the seemingly never ending growth of the Gulf carriers who in the last 10 years have become the new, dominant players.
At the same time, even Thai’s share of its own home market is also under intense pressure. Again, the Gulf carriers have taken a large share of traffic between Europe and Thailand, airlines such as British Airways have fought back and the arrival (finally!) of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner means that charter airlines such as Tui will be able to by-pass Bangkok entirely and launch direct flights between Europe and Phuket.
Is Thai Airways regretting ordering the A380?