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NEWS UPDATES 11 March 2010

Thailand’s flag-carrier to spend $1bn on leasing new aircraft

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Thai Airways has announced plans to spend more than one billion dollars leasing 15 new aircraft over the next four years as the airline seeks to brighten prospects following two years of financial woes, reported AFP.

The flag carrier's board of directors agreed the budget on Monday as it appointed Pravich Rattanapira as new chairman of its executive board following the resignation of his predecessor last month in an excess baggage scandal.

"The Board of Directors approved of the Aircraft Acquisition Plan for Years 2010-2014 with the budget of 35,484 million baht ($1.07 billion)," the airline said in a statement.

The airline plans to lease seven 300-seater aircraft for its regional routes and eight 350-seater aircraft for ten to 15 years on its intercontinental routes. Thai Airways currently has a fleet of 91 aircraft, comprising 47 Boeing, 42 Airbus and two ATR.

The company has been in financial straits since posting a loss of 21.3 billion baht in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis and political protests that closed Bangkok's airports in November-December 2008. Thai Airways has since launched a civil lawsuit against the protest leaders.

The company delayed delivery of six Airbus A380s, now due to arrive 2012-2013, because of a shortage of cash, and a further five A330-300 aircraft will finally become operational this year.

Freeloading scandals have also beset the airline, with company president Piyasvasti Amranand last year vowing to stop some current and former executives of the airline claiming free first-class seats as a matter of course.

Former executive chairman Wallop Bhukkanasut quit the airline in January after being accused of exploiting his position by transporting 30 pieces of luggage weighing 398 kilos (876 pounds) from Japan to Bangkok in November.

Thai Airways is continuing to negotiate with the government for a financial bail-out package. Last year the company said it needed to borrow 37 billion baht ($1.1 billion) in local and international loans to turn its fortunes around.

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