Ten months after handing over the first 737 Max 8, Boeing has now delivered the second major variant in re-engined single-aisle family with Thai Lion Air taking the first 737-9 in a 21 March ceremony in Renton, Washington.
The stretched single-aisle powered by CFM International Leap-1B engines completed a 10-month certification effort in January, clearing the way for the Lion Air subsidiary to accept the first aircraft from Boeing.
"The 737 has been the backbone of our business since we began and we will use the added capacity the airplane provides to expand our network and start additional routes to Bangladesh, China and India," says Darsito Hendro Seputro, chief executive and chairman of Thai Lion Air.
Another Lion Air subsidiary, Malindo, took delivery of the first 737-8 and launched operations last May.
In addition to a stretched fuselage, the 737-9 includes the same package of upgrades that Boeing introduced with the Max family. To reduce fuel consumption, Boeing replaced the CFM56 on the 737NG family with the Leap-1B, added the dual-feather Advanced Technology winglet and resculpted the tail cone into a cleaner, circular shape.
"The Lion Air Group is the perfect example of how the 737 Max family provides a common fleet solution across the single-aisle spectrum," says Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive Kevin McAllister.
The first delivery of the the 737-9 comes five days after the next major variant in the 737 Max family flew for the first time. The shortened 737-7 is scheduled to complete certification testing by the end of the year and enter service in 2019.
The 737-10, a further stretch of the 737-9, will enter service a year later.
Thai Airways’ MRO arm, Thai Technical, hopes to incorporate its U-Tapao-based joint venture MRO with Airbus by the first quarter of 2020, for launch in 2022.
Thai Technical’s director of MRO strategy and business development Wilarp Thonglaxsanawong adds that feasibility studies with Airbus are "around 80% complete” and that the joint venture agreement is expected to be signed by December.
Thonglaxsanawong’s comments follow a cooperation agreement in December 2017 between Thai Airways International and Airbus to explore MRO business opportunities at U-Tapao airport, after signing a memorandum of understanding in March 2017.
He adds that in 2021, Thai Technical will apply for certifications with the United States Federal Aviation Administration, European Aviation Safety Agency and the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.
Thonglaxsanawong adds that should Airbus not proceed even after completing the assessments, Thai Technical will go ahead with the new MRO facility at U-Tapao.
Located 140 km south of Bangkok in the eastern province of Rayong, U-Tapao airport has been earmarked by the Thai government as a capacity reliever for the capital’s Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports.
Thonglaxsanawong says that Thai Technical’s new MRO facility will occupy a land area of 83 acres, and offer various MRO services including line and heavy maintenance. It will also conduct wheel and brake work, as well as engine and component overhauls.
The facility will be able to support various aircraft types including the Airbus A380, A350, A330 and A320, as well as Boeing types such as the 747, 777, 787 and 737.
The U-Tapao Airport Authority has said that the MRO site will initially have a single hangar capable of accommodating three widebodies and four narrowbodies, with Thai Technical as the sole operator in the first five years of operations. Thereafter, the authority will look to construct a second hangar for third-party MRO work.
Thai Technical forecasts that the facility can generate $86 million annually after 10 years, and $629 million annually by 2072, a half century after operations begin. In addition, Thai Technical hopes to capture “at least 20%” of Southeast Asia’s MRO market.
“We have land at U-Tapao to cater to the growing aircraft fleet in this region and manpower cost are lower in Thailand as compared to our regional neighbors,” he adds.
NEW city planning for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is expected to be finished before May this year, according to Department of Public Works and Town and Country Planning’s deputy director-general Anuwat Suwannadej.
The EEC office is gathering information to draw up the development plan to serve the project development in future, he said at a seminar on the new cities and their benefits hosted by the Thansettakit Thailanguage newspaper late last week.
Besides the expansion of the existing industrial zones in the EEC from the present 350,000 rais (56,000 hectares), the development will also have to serve the establishment of the new cities, including an aviation city.
Jane Namchaisiri, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said that the development of the EEC would lead to the rollout of new infrastructure such as power plants to serve the demand of expanding industrial projects.
He added that new sources of fresh water would also be needed in order to serve the demand from industries in the zone. The EEC has also attracted international schools to open their schools in the zone, he said.
Vietnam’s skies are filling up quickly. Following launch announcements from AirAsia Group and Bamboo Airways, Vietstar Airlines, another local start-up, is hoping to receive an air operator’s certificate (AOC) this year.
VietStar Aero Engineering Co. commercial director, Trinh Quoc Cuong, said the MRO provider was looking to lease five B737-800s to start scheduled passenger services in 2018.
The low-cost airline plans to increase its fleet to 15 aircraft by 2020 and fly domestic and international routes.
At this stage, however, it remains unclear if and when Vietstar might receive its AOC. Vietnam’s aviation authorities have held back on licencing new entrants because of growing capacity bottlenecks at Ho Chi Minh City Airport, the gateway to the country.
VietStar Aero Engineering Co. provides MRO services for Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air aircraft at Ho Chi Minh Airport. It owns three hangars at the airfield, capable of simultaneously servicing five single aisle aircraft.
Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) announced that due to engine spare part shortage for two of its Airbus A380 aircraft, the Company has implemented aircraft rotation and is temporarily utilizing its Boeing 777-300ER with no impact to passengers.
Mrs. Usanee Sangsingkeo, THAI Acting President, said that while two Airbus A380 aircraft undergo scheduled maintenance and there is a shortage of Airbus A380 engine spare parts, THAI implemented aircraft rotation on some routes. THAI will operate its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft as a temporary replacement for its Airbus A380 on flights TG910 and TG911 roundtrip from Bangkok-London and flights TG676 and TG677 roundtrip from Bangkok-Tokyo (Narita). Passengers will enjoy traveling in comfort and convenience on THAI’s Boeing 777-300ER, which is fully equipped with new and modern inflight entertainment systems, with a total of 348 seats: 42 business class seats and 306 economy class seats. Business class seating gives passengers a sense of privacy, with a seat pitch of 21 inches with full flat bed, 180 degree recline. Economy class seat pitch is 18.1 inches wide with 120 degree recline. All seats are fully equipped with personal screens, with the latest in inflight entertainment technology.THAI has six Airbus A380 aircraft in its fleet, equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines. THAI requested that Rolls-Royce deliver engine spare parts with utmost urgency, however, Rolls-Royce was unable to deliver the spare parts within the established time frame. In order to create the least impact to routes scheduled to operate with the Airbus A380, THAI’s two Airbus A380 aircraft that are scheduled for maintenance will resume regular operations on 10 March 2018 and mid-March 2018, respectively.
BANGKOK Airways will receive two Airbus A319 aircraft and increase the number of its code-share partners under a plan to boost revenue growth by up to 10 per cent this year, the company’s president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth said yesterday.
The carrier also aimed to increase passenger numbers by up as much as 7 per cent this year from last year, Puttipong said at a press conference.
He said that in 2017 the company’s total revenue was Bt28.49 billion, an increase of 6.5 per cent from the previous year. Net profit was reported at Bt846.4 million, with the profit attributable to the equity holders of the company coming to Bt787.9 million. Earnings per share were Bt0.38.
The number of passengers carried last year 5.994 million passengers, rising 5 per cent from the previous year. For 2018, alongside the revenue goal of 10 per cent growth and a 7 per cent in passenger numbers, the passenger load factor is expected to be 70 per cent.
On the outlook and direction, the company will focus on expanding its network to cover the most important destinations throughout Asia “in order to facilitate our passengers and our code-share partners”.
“The company will further utilise our strategic flying hubs, which are Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi), Samui, and Chiang Mai, by offering new non-stop services from these airports to some high potential destinations in Asia, such as Chiang Mai–Hanoi, which is scheduled to operate from March 25, and Phuket-Yangon, expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2018,” Puttipong said.
For Samui, the company plans to offer some new charter services to cities with high potential in China, such as Samui-Xian and Samui-Changsha. “In addition, increased frequency will be added to our popular domestic and international routes such as Bangkok-Phuket, which will be increased to 66 flights a week, Bangkok-Vientiane to 14 flights a week and Bangkok-Mandalay (Myanmar) to 11 flights a week,” Puttipong said.
"This year, the company plans to increase the number of our code-share partners. In 2017, we signed code-share agreements with four leading airlines: Xiamen Airlines, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines.
“To date, Bangkok Airways is in partnership with 24 airlines around the world, including our latest partner, El Al Israel Airlines. In 2018, we expect to sign more agreements with another four to six carriers.”
As for aircraft delivery plans, the airline has a total of 38 aircraft in the fleet.
“The company expects to receive two Airbus A319 aircraft and is planning to adjust the ATR72 fleet by removing six of our ATR72-500 and replacing them with the brand-new aircraft ATR72-600s, which will continue the total number of 38 aircraft for 2018,” he added.
This year, the company also plans to invest more in airport-related businesses in order to enhance the company's overall performance. The company plans to build a hangar at Sukhothai airport, which can accommodate aircraft maintenance up to C-Check levels.
The company also plans to expand its Bangkok Air Catering business by opening one more air catering house at the Chiang Mai International Airport, with operations expected to begin in 2018.
The company’s vice president for sales, Varong Israsena Na Ayudhya, said that this year, the company would concentrate on the CMLV countries - Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam - as these countries projected to achieve notable economic growth and high travel demand.
“Apart from these markets, we are eyeing the Chinese market, especially Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Chongqing. which are growing in terms of economic scale,” Varong said.
“Bangkok Airways currently operates daily non-stop flights between Samui-Hong Kong, Samui-Chengdu, Samui-Guangzhou and Samui-Chongqing and is planning to launch new charter services to Xian and Changsha in the near future.
"For domestic sales, we plan to tap into the corporate travel sector and government travel sector as we see higher travel demand in these two particular groups.“We believe that our products are very well suited for these travellers. For Thai markets, we will roll out some special promotions throughout the year as well as attending some important domestic travel fairs including the Thai Tiew Thai Fair and the Samui Travel Fair to generate advance sales.”
The low-cost carrier Thai AirAsia Co Ltd (TAA) this year is planning to acquire seven aircraft to bring its fleet to 63 aircraft, according to its statement on Thursday.
TAA aims to add more routes to the Indian and Asean markets while maintaining its customer base in the Chinese market. This diversified strategy is intended to minimise the risk of dependence on a major customer base and to enhance the company's future sustainable revenue growth.
TAA is confident it can end the year with a load factor average of 87 per cent and with a target of 23.2 million passengers served.
In 2017, TAA received five aircraft, bringing their year-end total to 56 aircraft.
Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Asia Aviation Plc and Thai AirAsia, said that despite an increase in average global fuel prices in 2017, efficient management allowed TAA to continue to grow. Throughout 2017, TAA inaugurated 16 new routes, focusing on inter-regional connections and secondary provinces in support of the overall tourism and government policy.
SMBC Aviation Capital has today announced that it has acquired a new Airbus A350-900 XWB (MSN 0185) from Kuwaiti based lessor, ALAFCO which has been delivered to Bangkok-based airline, Thai Airways. The three-way transaction was completed at the Airbus facility in Toulouse and is part of a two A350 aircraft deal, the second of which will be delivered to Thai Airways in March 2018.
Both aircraft will be fitted with Rolls Royce Trent XWB-84 engines.
Commenting on the announcement, CEO Peter Barrett said “We are very pleased to conclude this transaction with ALAFCO which sees us acquire a new A350 and deliver it to our long-term customer, Thai Airways.We are very pleased to enhance our A350 portfolio which is one of the most technologically advanced widebody aircraft on the market.In addition, this transaction enables us to increase our footprint in the Asia Pacific region, our largest market worldwide.”ALAFCO CEO, Ahmad A. Alzabin added, “ALAFCO is pleased to have successfully completed its first transaction with SMBC Aviation Capital, with the sale representing a good opportunity for ALAFCO to generate value for its investors. In addition, this transaction demonstrates the attractiveness of our aircraft assets globally and is evidence of ALAFCO’s disciplined approach to portfolio management. ALAFCO will continue to invest in this technologically-advanced aircraft, and expects to take delivery of an additional 7 A350 aircraft over the next two years.”
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