Thai Airways to retire flagship long-haul fleet, including A380s and 747s

Feb 10, 2021

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As the pandemic continues raging, the recovery in international long-haul travel could still be years away.

With many countries closed, airlines don’t currently need an extensive fleet of wide-body jets to carry passengers across oceans and continents. Though many carriers have temporarily parked their biggest planes, others are making more drastic long-term plans.

The latest move comes from Bangkok-based Thai Airways, which just announced a major fleet restructuring, according to local media reports.

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Thai is slated to retire all of its Airbus A380s and A330s, as well as its Boeing 747s, leaving the carrier with more modern, fuel-efficient jets such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

According to Cirium fleets data, the airline has:

  • 11 Boeing 747-400s in storage, with the oldest delivered in 1990.
  • 6 Airbus A380s in storage, with the oldest delivered in 2012.
  • 15 Airbus A330-330s, 13 of which are in storage, with an average age of roughly ten years.

Assuming the carrier moves forward with its retirement plans, Thai will be left with the following jets, many of which also are currently in long-term storage.

  • 12 Airbus A350-900s, with the oldest delivered in 2016.
  • 6 Boeing 787-8s, with the oldest delivered in 2014.
  • 2 Boeing 787-9s, with the oldest delivered in 2017.
  • 20 Boeing 777-300s, with the oldest delivered in 1999.

There are also 12 Boeing 777-200s in the fleet, but those are currently listed for sale, as well as some of the airline’s -300s.

For sale, by owner: Thai Airways retiring Boeing 747s, puts 777s up for sale online

Thai’s Boeing 777-300 will be one of the last planes in the carrier’s fleet (Photo by C. V. Grinsven/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Before the pandemic, Thai had one of the most varied long-haul fleets in the sky, with a smattering of the most popular Airbus and Boeing jets. The carrier was notorious for last-minute aircraft swaps — you might’ve been booked on a 747 only to find it substituted for a Boeing 777 right before departure.

With a more streamlined fleet, that will be less of a concern.

More: A sign of the times: Qatar to retire half its A380 fleet

The bad news, however, is that retiring the 747 and A380 fleet means the elimination of first class. Historically, Thai has only offered a first-class product on its two largest planes.

With the impending retirement, Thai will also be bidding farewell to its most exclusive cabins. That’s particularly disappointing to points and miles enthusiasts who’ve enjoyed flying in Thai first class on saver awards booked through partners like Air Canada Aeroplan and United MileagePlus.

Thai first class on the Boeing 747 (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Thai also operated a dedicated first-class lounge at its hub in Bangkok, so it’ll be interesting to see what the carrier ends up doing with the space in the coming months and years.

Thai isn’t the only airline drastically reducing its fleet due to the pandemic. Last year, Air France abruptly retired its entire fleet of Airbus A380s. British Airways, once the world’s largest operator of the Queen of the Skies, bid farewell to the 747.

Domestically, American Airlines has retired five plane types, including the Airbus A330 and Boeing 767, with a sixth — the Embraer E140 — on its way out this year. Delta retired its largest jet, the 777, with little fanfare at the end of 2020.

And then you have Emirates, the world’s largest operator of the Airbus A380, which remains committed to the double-decker for the near future.

Featured photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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