Air Transport World

Cutting through the turbulence: Thai politics continue to spin, wheels within wheels, but Thai Airways International prospers in spite of its internal conflicts. (company profile)

Bangkok-Politics and kick boxing are Thailand's major national spectator sports; kick boxing is the more gentle of the two. If it was possible to quantify the happenings in the political world-who was coming up, who was going down-the newspapers would headline the political scorecards on the front page each day. As it is, wordsmany words-must suffice in political coverage, which is swallowed whole by a voracious public.

it is amazing that a prosperous and prominent expression of the Thai culture such as Thai Airways International has been insulated from the roiling political scene for so long. This insulation was not permanent, however, and in late 1988 and early 1989, the airline was disrupted by a round of politically charged changes (ATW, 3/89).

Now the pendulum of change is swinging the other way, although hesitantly. While many of the professional airline managers have regained some of the influence that they lost during the period of change, it is doubtful that the pre-1988 status quo will be reinstated.

This is not to say that the turmoil disrupted Thai's string of 25 successful and profitable years. Indeed, in fiscal 1988-89, the carrier's traffic rose 18.4% in revenue passenger km-part of this increase is attributed to its assumption of the routes and aircraft of the domestic carrier, Thai Airways-load factors were up 2.8 points to 73.5%, and the pretax profit was 7.42 billion bhat ($296.8 million). These figures do not indicate a carrier in trouble.

The future appears to hold more of the same, an enviable fate filled to overflowing with success due to the booming Pacific travel market. Thai is predicting that its traffic will increase 1 1.7% annually for the next five years, producing an average profit margin of 1 1.5% in that period. During that 5-year period, the carrier will make a cumulative pretax profit of 42.1 billion bhat ($1.68 billion) and a net profit of 27.2 billion bhat ($1.08 billion).

What had been threatened by the changes was not immediate financial disaster but the spirit and morale of a professional-airline staff who saw the source of their pride endangered by politicians playing to the gallery. The financial impact would have been felt later. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.