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Thai Airways projects Bt200 bn

Thai Airways International will maintain its sales projection this year at Bt200 billion and targets earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of at least Bt20 billion while a political cloud still hangs over its business performance.

Currently, the national carrier is feeling a pinch from the political chaos plaguing the country. Although last month was still high season, its cabin factor was 70-72 per cent, down from 78 per cent in January 2012. First-quarter cabin factor is projected to average 72 per cent.

For the whole year, its cabin factor is projected to stay at 74-76 per cent.

Chokchai Panyayong, THAI senior executive vice president (commercial) and acting president, declined to reveal its net-profit projection for this year, but said the carrier would have to wait and see if business performance in the second half improved enough to offset a disappointing scenario.

In the first nine months of last year, the firm posted a total loss of Bt6.35 billion.

He said the airline would have to cut flight frequencies on some routes in the second quarter, which is the low season.

Cabin factor is projected to stay around 70 per cent next quarter.

Since October, passenger numbers have dropped by about 20 per cent from a year earlier. The Chinese market, including Hong Kong, has been hit hard with a drop of 30 per cent, he said.

Clearly, Chinese people are sensitive to the political chaos, especially once a state of emergency was declared in Bangkok. But even before the protests started, legislation took effect in the mainland on October 1 to curb zero-dollar outbound tours, another key factor to slow down the flow of Chinese tourists into Thailand.

Yesterday, THAI announced the official launch of on-board wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) service. It is the first airline in Thailand to do so and only the fifth or sixth in Asia.

It is available on its six Airbus A380-800 aircraft, which fly to Paris, Frankfurt, Osaka, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and also its seven Airbus A330-300s flying to Perth, Taipei, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Osaka.

The 20 aircraft it is taking delivery of between now and 2017 will also offer Wi-Fi service.

Chokchai denied THAI's Wi-Fi service was costly when compared with other airlines, but said its rates were competitive.

For example, its 3-megabyte package for smartphones costs US$4.50 (Bt145), with 10MB available for $14.50. For laptops and tablets, its 10MB package also costs $14.50, with 20 MB available for $28.50.

GSM mobile phone service will be launched once legislation permits it.


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