Thai Airways Wants To Bring Back Nonstop Flights To The US

Filed Under: Thai

Thai Airways used to fly nonstop from Bangkok to New York and Los Angeles using their Airbus A340-500 aircraft, though in 2012 they cut those routes, given how much money the airline was losing on the routes. This was due to a combination of the A340-500 being a gas guzzler, and also the generally low yields on flights to and from Thailand.

Thai Airways used to operate a one stop flight between Los Angeles and Bangkok, which initially routed via Osaka, and then eventually via Seoul Incheon, before it finally got cut. When an airline only operates a one-stop routing to their home country, they don’t really have a competitive advantage, since there are a dozen airlines operating one-stop flights between the US and Thailand.

Thai Airways isn’t even allowed to fly to the US at the moment, given the poor rating Thailand scored in a safety audit. This caused the FAA to downgrade Thailand to Category II, which means they can’t operate flights to the US. However, I’d keep in mind that’s more a reflection of the regulation in the country overall (or lack thereof), rather than Thai Airways specifically.


Anyway, it looks like Thai Airways is looking to change their safety image, and even wants to restart flights between Bangkok and the US. Per the Bangkok Post:

THAI targets non-stop flights to San Francisco or Seattle with easy transfer to other destinations (no other carriers offer this service) once flights are resumed to US.

Non-stop flights would be offered on the routes, which is a major selling point as no other carriers offer this service.

In the past, THAI operated flights to the US with a stop in either Japan or South Korea.

The opening of the new route to the US would come when THAI receives two new Boeing aircraft next year.

While I wouldn’t necessarily take this as fact yet, it does look like Thai Airways seriously wants to restart service to the US, and San Francisco or Seattle are the likely gateways. They’ll be taking delivery of some Boeing 787-9 aircraft next year, so I suspect that’s the plane they’d use for the route (that’s what United flies from San Francisco to Singapore).


San Francisco and Seattle are both logical options:

  • Seattle is the closest US gateway they can operate to nonstop, though it’s not a Star Alliance hub, so there would be limited opportunities for connecting passengers
  • San Francisco is 500 miles further, so would be more expensive to operate, but also makes more sense, since it’s a United hub


Using a 787-9 rather than an A340-500 should at least help keep the operating costs of the flight down, but even so, I have a hard time imagining they’d turn a profit on the route, given the cost of operating an ultra longhaul flight, and that Thailand is a fairly low yield market.

Then again, that’s even more reason to root for the route, since award space would likely be plentiful. 😉

Bottom line

Thai Airways is seriously considering launching flights to the US, and I suspect if they do, San Francisco is the most logical choice. Quite a bit has to happen before they’ll be able to operate the route, so I suspect it could be 2018 before it launches, if it happens at all.

It would be great to see the return of nonstop flights between the US and Thailand.

Do you think Thai Airways will restart nonstop US flights? If so, would you fly with them?

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Yes I would and I’m rooting for Seattle. Thai flew to Seattle back in the 80s and I’d like to see the service restarted.

  2. Who wouldn’t want more flights with available award space? Also the biggest problem with Thai is that they are notorious for equipment swaps, and that wouldn’t be possible on this route. I’m hoping they get this done.

  3. wondering if UA will make first move by launch SFO-BKK, and persuade TG to take care of LAX-BKK traffic. Big upgrade over flying to Tokyo then another 7 hours to BKK…

  4. Thought excited, I do not understand why Thai Airways don’t consider LA as a destination, wouldn’t they have much potential on that route? Also, I would fly Thai Airways to the US in a heartbeat, just to mix the experience up with my frequent journeys with EVA Air.

  5. @kelt the reason is that LA is further than SF, which is further than Seattle from Bangkok. The difference between flying to LA versus Seattle is about the same as flying from LA to Denver at 811 miles. That means tacking another 2 hours of flying onto an already very stretched flight.

    With that said, BKK-LAX is slightly less flying than SFO-SIN, but the margins have to be significantly better on the latter.

  6. It would be cray-cray to fly into SEA without a partnership with DL or AS from such a low-yield ultra-longhaul destination like BKK, and an AS or DL partnership would be a thumb in UA’s eye as a *A partner. UA could retaliate by starting SFO-BKK, and my understanding is *A is much less inclined to get into bed with airlines like AS; consider that AS has ST partners like DL/KL/AF and OW partners like BA/LA/CX/QF, but zero, zip, bupkiss, nil, nada in the way of *A partners.

    Thus, SFO-BKK, since that reasonably covers LAX, PHX, CHI, SEA, DFW, NYC with one-stops on UA, and realistically pre-empts UA from starting SFO-BKK.

  7. One question: couldn’t Thai generate a good amount of connecting traffic to other points in Asia? Unless there’s something I’m missing, couldn’t this route work out?

  8. Eva is doing very well in Seattle. I am EVA Star Alliance Gold, and I can rarely get off the waitinglist for SEA-TPE. Almost 100% of the time I have Thai passenger sitting next to me on EVA flight. Also, it is standard to have Thai cabin crew on SEA-TPE. I think the demand between BKK and SEA is pretty high.

  9. This is so great that there’s the possibility of Thai Airways restarting non stops flights to the US

  10. The largest Thai community outside Thailand is in Los Angeles – this might be an incentive for Thai to consider re-introducing a flight between the 2 Cities of Angels.

  11. Can someone please explain to me how BKK-SEA distance can be 500 miles shorter than BKK-SFO. With SFO being further south and no further east, one would normally say SFO is closer to BKK.

    I guess I need to study up on this Great Circle thing.

  12. Can someone with knowledge of the matter comment on operating costs of this or a similar route with a 787 vs a 340? I’m curious to know how large the savings actually is, or isn’t…

  13. First off, I would definitely fly Thai. Their service and food is great and I also have their ROP card which is even better. Since Thai cut their US routes I had to fly EVA from Bangkok to JFK or LAX instead which was fine but I didn’t really enjoy a layover in Taipei. I’m still wondering though, why don’t they just use their 777-300ER, that would cover the distance right? Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the 777-300ER covers a longer distance than the 787-9 right?

  14. Flew the JFK-BKK route round trip twice (2005 and 2008 I think?). Hard product was decent, soft product was excellent. I would fly them again… (I should note though, I’m a good sleeper on aircraft, so in each instance I slept 14 of the 17 hours in the air.)

  15. @peter when you older a map your seeing things very different than they are. Your looking at a flat picture and not a sphere. The flight from BKK-LAX would head pretty far north to make it near the top of the circle before heading south, passing SEA and SFO along the way. Circles have a much later circumference towards the center and flight distance would be far longer if they didn’t follow the great circle route. Eastbound flights do sometimes stay farther south to take advantage of prevailing winds , especially in winter time so it’s possible the east bound flight wouldn’t take much longer to get to LA but it’s still farther.

  16. I personally prefer a couple hour stopover in Japan or Korea to stretch my legs and break up the flight. A 17 hour flight on Thai’s A340 from LAX-BKK is brutal, even in premium economy. On one flight, we couldn’t land at BKK due to fog. We ended up diverting to Chang Mai adding 3 1/2 more hours to our already long 17 hour flight. My body just can’t handle this much flying.

  17. Amazingly this leaves those of us on the east coast still hosed , it wasn’t that bad flying from mid Atlantic say Norfolk, Richmond to Atlanta or DTW, then to NRT then to BKK. But when Delta stopped we were left to Korean Air from Dulles to Inchon then to BKK, which is a great flight, but getting to those cities is a hassle, if you aren’t fortunate to live near a big city you are double hosed

  18. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this article is wrong. The main reason Thai Airways shut down their nonstop flights to LAX is due to money but not because of low yield. In fact, their yield was over kill and The a Thai Royal and military personnel took advantage of this route. They HAD to let these people fly for free or at least the cost was comped in a way that was costing Thai Airways millions. They CANNOT say “No!” So instead, they ended the route and stopped these folks in Thailand from taking advantage of free flying or “low cost” flying. With the exceptional service they put out and great food, can you imagine? Sad but true. I’m half Thai and have spoken too many Thai people about this. But under the radar hush hush talk like in taxi cabs and with relatives.

  19. Jeff again from. The east coast, still hosed but if you’re a delta FF, then its Norfolk or richmond to Atl or Detroit, to Inchon then Bkk. That’s not to bad but no more Comfot pluss, now it’s the big bucks using Premium select or Delta One. Oh ya I don’t think you can use or Combo points either???? Help

  20. Any mention of Star Alliance and United gives me anxiety. Boy I hate that airline. I would welcome a non-stop from Bangkok to the US though. Unfortunately it still means a stop for me from the east coast. Ideally NY would be perfect but it doesn’t sound like that is in the cards. My next trip to BKK is on Cathay via HKG from EWR. First leg is just under 16hrs. Uggg.

  21. I would like to see Thai Airways bring back JFK-BKK nonstop. I flew that route with them many times. Unfortunately, they have discontinued it. With the introduction of new planes 787-9, 777-200LR & A350-900ULR it is possible.

    Also, their business class seat configuration of A340-500 was terrible. It was a flat bed, but with a huge incline angle, so you would always slide down and could not relax at all.

  22. Thai thought seriously hard back in the early 1990s at introducing a route to New York via Europe (CDG & LHR were possibilities) probably on a 747 as a similar exercise to what Singapore Airlines were doing when they were flying SIN-FRA/AMS-JFK (this route still operating now) in 1992/1993.

    It finally became a reality in 2005 when Thai launched BKK-JFK nonstop with either an A346 or a 777-300.

  23. Thai Airways currently has passenger size restrictions in their business class between some city pairs. I’d only fly them if they:

    1. Resolved this issue (apparently related to seat belt restrictions;

    2. Improved their method of screening passengers who are too large to fly business class; and

    3. Re-instated flights from Japan to the US.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *