Sad: Thai Airways Retiring Airbus A380 Fleet

Filed Under: Thai

It looks like Thai Airways will be the latest airline to retire the A380 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thai Airways retiring all six Airbus A380s

Thai Airways is currently restructuring, and as part of this it has been revealed that several types of aircraft will leave the fleet. Most significantly, Thai Airways plans to retire its fleet of six Airbus A380s.

This makes Thai Airways the third airline to be retiring its entire A380 fleet, after Air France and Lufthansa. On top of that, the jury is still out on the future of the A380 fleets of Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

Thai Airways has never really had a very well developed strategy with the A380:

  • It seems like the airline mostly bought the A380 for prestige, which is what motivated a lot of Thai Airways’ bad decisions over the years
  • The airline used the A380 for flagship routes to London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, etc., but struggled with load factors and yields
  • With such a small fleet of A380s, there wasn’t much efficiency to the fleet

In addition to retiring A380s, Thai Airways also plans to retire its Boeing 747 and Airbus A330 fleets. We already knew that Thai Airways would retire its 747s, as the airline put its entire 747 fleet on sale. In the case of the A380, Thai Airways had previously put two of the planes on sale, suggesting the airline would have a fleet of just four of these planes.

Thai Airways’ 747 first class

The end of first class for Thai Airways?

At this point it seems highly likely that Thai Airways will eliminate first class, which sure is a shame. Admittedly the airline never made money on this product, but rather kept it out of prestige and for the royals.

In recent years the airline has only offered first class on the 747 and A380, so with both of these planes being retired, it doesn’t seem like Thai Airways has much of a future for first class.

Interestingly Thai Airways is supposed to take delivery of three new Boeing 777-300ERs shortly, which allegedly feature first class. However, it’s questionable if the airline will even take delivery of these planes at this point, and for that matter I doubt the airline would continue offering separate services for just three planes.

I’ve always enjoyed my flights in Thai Airways’ first class, and in particular will miss Thai Airways’ excellent first class lounge in Bangkok, which I considered to be one of the best in the world.

Thai Airways’ excellent first class lounge Bangkok

Bottom line

Thai Airways will be retiring its fleet of six Airbus A380s, making it the third airline to retire its entire A380 fleet. On top of that, the airline will be retiring 747s and A330s, but we already knew that was happening.

With this, it seems highly likely that Thai will also eliminate first class, given that this was historically limited to the A380 and 747.

What do you make of Thai Airways’ planned A380 retirement?

(Tip of the hat to Simple Flying)

  1. Definitely sad to see all these A380’s and 747’s go the way of the dingo. Will also miss Thai first class lounge and their golf carts driving you past the hoi polloi to your plane. Although I will say Thai First onboard isn’t really that special.

  2. Sad but not surprising. I flew Thai Airways A380 in business last February between London and Bangkok on my way to Vietnam. Great experience.

  3. It’s sad to see more A380s go but the Thai business class experience was very meh. The upper deck has no special features like a bar and the seats are the same as their B777s I think. Perfectly nice (apart from the colour) but nothing special. And the business lounges at BKK are always rammed. For LHR-BKK, EVA Air has always been a much better no-stop experience IMHO or via Helsinki on Finnair’s new A350s or via HKG on Cathay.

  4. Very sad to read this. I’m so out of the loop and didn’t realize Lufthansa retired its A380 fleet (I knew they were in longterm storage and likelihood of coming back was low but didn’t realize they actually officially retired them.)
    Yes similar to others I will also miss the Thai Airways first class lounge in BKK. I’ve always loved the service in first class when I flew on TG A380.
    I still remember learning the Thai Airways’s pair award seat trick from reading your blog several years ago!

  5. Just my two cents, but I think they should consider adding Premium Economy to offset the loss of First just like it’s competitors in the region.

  6. The right decision! TG should get rid of First Class which does not make the company any yields! First is often full of uprades and redemption tickets. The best is to follow QR in improving C class and makes it a real premium experience.
    Put the mass in Eco and implement Eco Prem. Making C class exclusive by offering only a small amount of seats. Pax who pay have priorities to redemption tickets and no upgrades to C class.

  7. @Mike O, weirdly on select 777’s they sell business class seats as premium economy, essentially an unbundled business class fare. If memory serves me correct these mainly operated to CPH and occasionally CDG. I get you mean an actual PE cabin which I agree would work well and on a technical side they already have the dedicated fare buckets to sell.

  8. @AirlineInsider91

    I’m sure a dedicated Premium Economy cabin will be popular among holidaymakers and for those taking the Kangaroo Route and want to spend a few days in Thailand and want to avoid the likes of BA for a more pleasant experience.

  9. Wouldn’t be surprised if the 777s are yet delivered with first class and are rotated on the BKK-MUC route…

  10. @Super, I think you meant the dodo.

    Dingos are alive and well, and will eat your baby if you don’t watch out!

  11. As I’ve said before, Thai won’t retire Royal First Class, thankfully, due to their role as the carrier of the Thai royal family.

  12. Rama X recently had his A345 retrofitted with a new bathroom for just THB 54m and will most likely use that plane for the time being. The ‘heir apparent’ already flies with the A345 too. On top of that, there are two 777 with a special galley behind the first business class section which are/were used to fly Queen Suthida to and from Zurich.

  13. TG – for as long as I lived in BKK (left last year) – never had competitive J or F fares to Europe out of BKK when compared to BR, BA, AF, KL, LH, LX, and others. Even intra-Asia, the never came close to KE, JL, VN and others. The prestige piece of flying the A380 was something the nation celebrated as a point of pride…but going up against the BR and BA 777s to LHR was never going to turn a profit, even despite how crappy and old that BA 777 was!

  14. Didn’t the Thai 340-500s have a premium economy section back in the day of nonstop service to LAX and JFK?

  15. I think that having just the A350 for the long haul should be the way to go for Thai.
    The royals and the rich can have their own private jets.

  16. Just because there is no onboard First Class cabin doesn’t mean an airline has to cut the more exclusive ground services.

    There are a handful of really solid business class seats, and truth be told, the soft product between First and Business on most airlines is not incredibly different, unless you value expensive ingredients (i.e. caviar).

    But as for the ground service, there’s no reason TG can’t maintain the First Class lounge/spa for higher revenue elites, or even a pay-for-entry model like QR offers.

    My favorite part about flying TG F was the spa and the lounge, tbf.

  17. Having a home in Bangkok I have flown Thai many times. Almost always they would be my second or third choice on any route. Great value back in the days when you could use 30,000 United miles to fly in Business to Sydney fromBangkok. Fun to take a 747 for the one hour flight to Chiangmai. Great lounges…but other than that the airline is totally forgettable.

    Thai ego probably won’t let it go but I suspect it will be a money pit for many years to come.

  18. ” Four engines bad, two engines good!”

    And COVID has added significantly to that and expediated the time frame, greatly.

    For the foreseeable future, the global mass migration that we have experienced for the last forty years, enabled and encouraged by the c/a industry, is well and truly over. I don’t think it’s temporary or a ‘correction’, but the mass transport of humans by air on a biblical scale is at an end.

    It’s too dangerous, look back to Italy and Europe early last year. It’s the end for the big hollow gas guzzling four engined Airbuses.

    COVID-19 was kind of like their meteor.

  19. F on the Thai A380 from HKG to BKK or the return was an awesome redemption for 25K miles. Royal First Lounge from BKK or the UA First lounge from HKG. I know the UA First Lounge in HK wasn’t the greatest but after the UA flights to SFO, ORD and EWR departed you had the lounge to yourself for two hours.

  20. The problem was, and most likely still is extreme cronyism and patronage from the very top down.
    His Nibs is rumored to run no less than 33 private aircraft on top of the airline being expected to put on royal and military junkets to war zones like Hawaii at the drop of a wreath-encrusted hat.
    Sorry to get political, but the airline is just a reflection of the mess the khaki dinosaurs have made of a nation with limitless but endlessly stifled potential.

  21. A380 will be sadly missed especially the route from London to Bangkok then the transfer to Phuket and the return journey also to London.

  22. I am sure the Thai elites are all whining and complaining now – they definitely won’t be able to get all that prostrating and a-kissing they received on Thai Airways on other carriers.

  23. Laughable.

    The last 12 months has seen the largest transfer of wealth in history. The gap between rich and poor has grown exponentially.

    Eliminating the 1st class cabin was inevitable as the actual rich grew tired of sitting near the pretenders using miles.

    Now they fly private while we are told to be thankful when allowed to leave the house. With a note of course. Covid is not a hoax. But that doesn’t mean it’s not being used to the great benefit of the very few at the expense of the many.

    Oh, and yeah, definitely gonna miss Thai A380 first class when I am allowed to visit Thailand again in 2023.

  24. This development will mean that SQ will be the *only* Southeast Asian airline to not only offer first class—and, moreover, Suites—but also to be fully committed to it. GA’s F product is limited to two 777-300ERs that fly exclusively to Tokyo, MH turned its F into Business Suites, and now TG is pretty much retiring F. Indeed, SQ is the one Southeast Asian airline which has consistently exceeded expectations with F, compared to TG, MH and GA, which had it only for prestige (though GA’s product, and especially service, was/is phenomenal).

    Compare this to Northeast Asia, where there are scores of airlines that continue to offer F.

  25. @VT-CIE

    I guess a host of NE Asian carriers still offer F is because they’re in global cities and financial hubs which includes Hong Kong, Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai. They’re also Alpha + cities. Singapore is the only SE Asian city that’s an Alpha + as well as a financial hub.

    A bit OT, but it is surprising that the two Korean carriers are still able to offer First; Korean seems to offer First on majority of their widebody fleet.

  26. Thai A380 F was great! I’ll never forget the overnight we spent on the luxurious pleather sofas of the BKK first class check-in area. Flight from NRT arrived at 12am and we didn’t realize the F lounge was closed from 12-6am. Whisked away in a golf cart on arrival just to be dumped landside. Never did get to experience the lounge with 1hr massage lol

  27. The very best days of Thai were when they flew DC8s and DC10s, in partnership with SAS. The early days of 747s were okay as well, but things started to go off the rails when the politicians got intimately involved.
    I simply stopped flying with them, despite being in Bangkok every month, because the Y experience had declined to an alarming degree, exacerbated by the lack of immigration/security fast track for ROP Gold/ Star Gold.

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