Thai Airways Selling Boeing 747, Airbus A380 Fleet

Filed Under: Thai

Thai Airways is continuing to put much of its fleet on sale, and it’s not good news for those who like flying super jumbos, or those who like Thai Airways’ first class.

I wrote a few weeks ago about many of the planes that Thai Airways put up for sale, including its entire 747 fleet. Well, the airline is now putting some A380s up for sale as well.

For sale: Thai Airways A380s, 747s, 777s, A340s

Thai Airways has 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 Airbus A380-800s, delivered in 2013
  • Two Boeing 737-400s, delivered between 1992 and 1993
  • One Airbus A300-600, delivered in 1993

The 737s and A300 were listed online for quite a while, while the other planes have been added to the database in recent weeks.

For some context on these planes:

  • The 747-400s for sale make up Thai Airways’ entire 747 fleet; they’re available as of the second quarter of 2021
  • The two A380-800s for sale make up a third of Thai Airways’ A380 fleet, as the airline has six of these planes; 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 12 777-200s and 777-300s make up Thai Airways’ entire short haul 777 fleet, though the airline also has six Boeing 777-200ERs and 14 Boeing 777-300ERs, which are used for long haul flights; the airline also has a further three leased 777-300ERs on order, which could be delivered soon

Thai Airways is trying to sell its Boeing 777-300s

The end of Thai Airways’ 747 fleet?

During the pandemic we’ve seen several airlines expedite their retirement of the Boeing 747, including British Airways, Qantas, and Virgin Atlantic. 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:

  • In theory 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 (short of equity in Avatar Airlines), 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

I think it’s safe to say that Thai Airways’ 747s will never fly with passengers again.

Thai Airways’ 747-400

What happens to Thai Airways’ A380 fleet?

The newest update is that Thai Airways has listed two of its Airbus A380s for sale. Unfortunately we’ve seen some airlines, including Air France and Lufthansa, retire their A380s early as a result of the pandemic. For other airlines, like Etihad, Qantas, and Qatar, the future of the A380 is in limbo.

I do find it curious that Thai Airways is trying to sell two of its six Airbus A380s:

  • If this reflects Thai Airways’ intentions, it means the airline would just have a fleet of four A380s going forward, which seems especially small
  • While Thai likely should have never ordered A380s to begin with, it has become the “flagship” plane for the airline, and has been used in particular for routes to Frankfurt, London, and Tokyo
  • If the airline were left with just four A380s, that sure represents a tiny fleet

So for now we’ll have to wait and see what happens with Thai Airways’ A380 fleet. It seems like the airline is leaning towards keeping four of the six frames, though given the financial situation the airline is in, anything can change. I think it goes without saying that there’s no secondhand market for these planes.

Thai Airways’ A380 first class

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 all 747s and two A380s were retired, that would mean that only four A380s would maintain first class
  • With each A380 having 12 first class seats, that means the airline would have just 48 first class seats in its fleet
  • Given the current situation Thai Airways is in, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the airline retire all of its A380s
  • Even if Thai Airways 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 four planes, making me wonder if they might turn it into a “super business class,” as we’ve seen at Malaysia Airlines

Thai Airways’ first class lounge

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 (though at this point that’s a thing of the past).

Thai Airways’ lovely 747 first class

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 any day now.

Thai Airways’ A350 business class

Bottom line

Thai Airways is looking to sell much of its current fleet, including all 747s, a third of its A380s, 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.

Rather this just seems to reflect Thai Airways’ intentions to retire these planes, and for the purposes of the reorganization the airline is at least trying to sell them.

What do you make of Thai Airways’ 747 and A380 plans?

(Tip of the hat to Rafi)

  1. Wonder if any government would be interested to pick them up, either as executive transport, or use in the air force. I’m sure Iran would love to retire their 50+ year old 747(s?). Maybe even North Korea?

  2. ‘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 would be interesting to know just how aircraft prices have been affected this year with so much supply of older thirstier planes on the 2nd hand market and so little demand for them. Any figures?

  3. Some of those 747s had an epically bad first class hard product – good riddance. But at the end of the day, the main reason to fly Thai F is the ground services. Hoping they keep that even with just the six A380s. Perhaps there’s a way to have it as an upsell to J passengers.

  4. That will be the end of TG First Class service. I do not expect this class of service after the pandemic. The company has to restructure sensibly and concentrate to increase it yields and profts in order to survive.
    The Eco service is one of the best. The Biz service is good. So why not improve these two classes. First class is oftenly filled up from complimentary upgrades of Gold and Platinum holders anyway. TG is not earning much from this class. First lounge service on the ground cost the company more than it is really worth it. TG should follow QR and install a Biz suite with a First class catering, amenities and service.

  5. Thai needs a first class for royal passengers and the local elite’s prestige, so I expect it will stay, thankfully. Commercial considerations are not so important.

  6. I agree with Ben Dover. Lots of HiSo Thais that will be unhappy if they get rid of F.

    Curious what this means for the BKK-HND route. That was exclusively 747s before the pandemic.

  7. @Ben Dover: I don’t think the royals need First. The King was flying out of ZRH to BKK during the pandemic on a 777 which only had J.

  8. @Andy; Not sure with this point of the royals and it’s relation to TG F.

    I am Munich based, and for business reasons I was almost kind of commuter on the route MUC-BKK-MUC, (many times with connection to TPE and HKG) . This was mainly during the years 2004-2014 and all the time Thai was operating the flight with the 747-400, while other European destinations were already served by the the more updated part of the TG fleet with 340s and 777s.

    It was always a saying that the 747 operation was kept to MUC, because it had First and at same time the special relation of the Thai royal members to the Munich area. They have a property close to Munich at a nice and prestigious lake site. Of course, heard about this only by sayings, but it remembered me when reading the comment of Ben. And also have some assumption that local elite prestige’s have some certain demand and influence to TG and the continuous service of the Royal First service which might be in conflict with the real commercial and demand situation for a economic operation of TG.

  9. The past couple of years you’ve been able to either freely, or for a small fee, sit in the F seats on flights with no F service. They’re old and crummy seats on the 747’s, but it’s at least flat bed and a lot nicer than the business class seats. Food and service tend to be great though.
    The regional 777 were shite and often randomly mixed with the long haul fleet on some destinations.
    Even the long haul fleet needs a refresh and longer bed space in business, as if you’re over 180cm tall, you’re not going to be comfortable sleeping.
    Not a terrible airline overall and I they don’t disappear.

  10. Where were these stored this time??? Both the -500 & -600 looked great in TG’s colours.

    Six Airbus A340-600s, delivered between 2005 and 2008
    Three Airbus A340-500s, delivered between 2005 and 2007

  11. @Marco some planes, including 3 380s, are currently stored at the infamous U-Tapao–Rayong–Pattaya International Airport (UTP). One airplane in Phitsanulok, two in Phuket, and the rest at both airports in Bangkok

  12. I’m confused.

    You list the following 340s as being sold:

    -Six Airbus A340-600s, delivered between 2005 and 2008
    -Three Airbus A340-500s, delivered between 2005 and 2007

    But then you say “The A340-600s for sale make up Thai Airways’ entire A340 fleet; they’re available as of the second quarter of 2021.”

    Did you mean that the total of nine A340s being sold make up the entire A340 fleet?

    I’m not trying to correct you, just wondering if I’m missing something…

  13. Thanks Endre. I guess some planes can be in storage for a long time. I’ll say it again nothing like the gorgeous A340-600.

  14. @Lucky
    “super business class,” as we’ve seen at Malaysia Airlines

    This was a political move. The government banned first class travel for staff, so they renamed it, so they could still travel in exactly the same cabin.

    However, you could be right in that Thai may do it for the same reason!

  15. Doubt there is much of a market for used 747’s. I’d think the Qantas 747ERs would have been the hottest 747s on the market (if there was a market) and if i recall correctly only 1 or 2 of them was purchased. The rest were scrapped/long term stored.

  16. Thai will invest more in the A350 than any other just more economical and comfortable and look newer fleet but sadly no F only J but still good enough we love flying Thai and miss flying the last time was from Chiangmai back to Melbourne on the last day of January 2020 just before the covid hit hope to fly again soon

  17. The other four A380s will leave TG by 2566/2023. The way they and the engines were acquired makes it currently difficult for TG to get rid of them.

  18. Like there’s any market at all for these aircraft. TG’s management is delusional. I believe they’re still trying to sell their A340s.

  19. What a mess of an airline and fleet. Simplification seems long overdue. The 747s will likely head to the scrap heap and the A380s sold for parts, potentially to EK. The future Thai fleet really should be around the A350 (-900 and -1000) for commonality, and the 787-10 for regional flying.

  20. With the unpopularity of the current Thai King, I am certain that the public would be happy to see the royals fly Economy !

  21. Who will then provide FC ground services to LX pax in BKK? The lounge service, the ground service and the individual suite rooms for a family are really nice.

  22. @Oliver The current Thai King lives most of the year in Munich/Bavaria. In 2004-2014 he was crown prince and that would have been more than enough to influence Thai Airways aircraft assignment.

  23. This is sad but understood news. I absolutely love flying F on Thai 380s & even the 747s. It is a truly special experience totally different from the Middle East airlines. It just puts a smile on your face. Until the pandemic, I transit regularly from TPA to PBH return connecting through BKK. I tend to go west & catch a Thai air rather than go to JFK for an eastern route. KE is good but frankly a bit too stuffy for me. Looks like F in the air is going to be 777s moving forward. Sad just as when the Concorde was retired.

  24. pour moi ce n’est pas une très bonne idée ,de vendre les A 380 et 747 car c’est les deux seul model qui embarque le plus de passagers en une fois.Il faudra combien de 777 ou A 350 pour remplacer ces gros porteurs.
    Parce que après le covid ,il y aura un boom du voyage.

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