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Thai Airways International has asked the government for Bt20bn-Bt30bn ($573m-$859m) in loans after suffering severe setbacks, the airline said Monday.

In common with other airlines, Thailand’s flag carrier has been hit by last year’s surge in fuel prices followed by the global economic slowdown.

However, Thai’s problems have been amplified by political problems in Bangkok.

In November last year, just as south-east Asia’s peak tourist season was beginning, anti-government protesters besieged the country’s busiest airports, wreaking damage not only to the tourism industry but also on Thai Airways’ business as a regional hub carrier.

“The week-long closure of the airport cost us Bt5bn- Bt6bn in lost revenue,” said Raj Tanta-Nanta, Thai’s vice-president for investor relations.

He denied local media reports that the airline was asking for Bt70bn.

Mr Raj said that some Bt15bn, either in cash or a mixture of cash and guarantees, would go towards covering the airline’s short-term borrowing requirements, with the rest going to balance sheet support.

The airline, which is 51 per cent owned by the government, has eight Airbus A330 long-haul aircraft on order, six of them for delivery later this year.

Thai has already completed pre-payment on two of the aircraft, but is in discussions with Airbus about delaying delivery, or failing that, changing the pre-payment schedules on some of the other aircraft.

Mr Raj said that some of Thai’s most important routes were holding up well, albeit with the assistance of heavy discounts of between 20 and 30 per cent.

European routes were running at 77 to 78 per cent capacity, four or five percentage points down on last year’s figures, with a similar fall on its Australasian routes, he said.

The news of the carrier’s financial problems sent the share price down 5.1 per cent to Bt6.55, the lowest price since July 1992.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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