Thai Airways set to sell its entire Boeing 747 Fleet

MAI KHAO BEACH, PHUKET, THAILAND - 2018/03/20: Thai Airways Boeing 747-400 about to complete a domestic flight from Bangkok and landing at Phuket over Mai Khao beach. (Photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Pssst: wanna buy a Boeing 747 jumbo jet? Then you’re in luck, because Thai Airways has ten of them up for sale.

Thai Airways puts 747s, 777s, A340s, on sale

Thai Airways has just listed several aircraft for sale online, inviting participation in the bidding process. The planes are all being sold “as is, where is,” and include the following:

  • 10 Boeing 747-400s, delivered between 1993 and 2003
  • Six Boeing 777-200s, delivered between 1996 and 1998
  • Six Boeing 777-300s, delivered between 1998 and 2000
  • Six Airbus A340-600s, delivered between 2005 and 2008
  • Three Airbus A340-500s, delivered between 2005 and 2007
  • Two Boeing 737-400s, delivered between 1992 and 1993
  • One Airbus A300, delivered in 1993

The 737-400s and A300 were already listed online prior to this, while the other planes being added are new. Furthermore, the Airbus A340 haven’t been flying for many years.

As far as the other planes go:

  • The 747-400s for sale make up Thai Airways’ entire 747 fleets; they’re available as of the second quarter of 2021
  • The A340-600s for sale make up Thai Airways’ entire A340 fleet; they’re available as of the second quarter of 2021
  • The combined 12 Boeing 777-200 and 777-300 make up Thai Airways’ entire short-haul 777 fleet, though the airline also has six Boeing 777-200ER and 14 Boeing 777-300ERs, which are used for long haul flights.

Will Thai Airways retire all of its 747s?

During the pandemic, we’ve seen several airlines expedite their retirement of the Boeing 747, including British Airways, Qantas, and more. At this point, Thai Airways has one of the largest 747 passenger fleets in the world, and prior to the pandemic, Thai Airways was planning to retire 747s by 2024.

Unfortunately, the timeline of that has seemingly been pushed forward by four years:

  • Just because the airline is trying to sell 747s doesn’t necessarily mean it will stop flying them for now, as the airline could be trying to see what it can get for them
  • The reality is that it’s unlikely Thai Airways can fetch much for these planes, given the number of other 747s being taken out of service that are being scrapped
  • That being said, regardless of whether or not Thai Airways can sell these planes, it seems highly unlikely that the airline will keep flying them, given the capacity and fuel burn.

What does this mean for Thai Airways first class?

These aircraft retirements also have implications for Thai Airways’ first class:

  • Thai Airways has offered first-class on its 10 747s and six A380s, so if the 747s were retired, that would mean that only six A380s would maintain first-class
  • With the current situation the airline is in, one has to wonder if it will keep flying A380s
  • Even if it does continue flying A380s, I have to imagine at some point the cost of maintaining a first-class lounge and dedicated services just isn’t worth it anymore for only six planes, making me wonder if they might turn it into a “super business class,” as we’ve seen at Malaysia Airlines.

I’ll be curious to see how this plays out, but it sure would be sad if Thai Airways eliminates first class. In particular, I’ve always found Thai’s first class in the nose of the 747 to be an especially charming experience.

Thai Airways is currently reorganizing

Thai Airways has been in a bad financial situation since long before the pandemic, as it has been both unprofitable and in huge debt. The pandemic made the situation much worse.

In September Thai Airways entered bankruptcy in Thai court, and the company is now reorganizing. I would imagine that a major fleet simplification would be part of any reorganization process. It’s expected that early next year we’ll know exactly what that looks like, so we’ll have to be patient.

We’ll see if it actually gets to that point, though, given that the airline will run out of cash reserves by December if things don’t improve.

Bottom line

Thai Airways is looking to sell much of its current fleet, including all 747s and a good portion of 777s. It’s unlikely Thai Airways will get much for these planes right now, given how many planes are on the secondhand market, and how little demand there is.

It does seem increasingly likely that this also means it’s the end of the 747 at Thai Airways, which would mean yet another airline is getting rid of the queen of the skies.


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