Thai to convert old planes for cargo

>> Monday, March 7, 2011

Thai Airways International has opted to convert two of its ageing passenger jumbo jets into dedicated freighters to support its growing air cargo business.

The flag carrier's board endorsed the conversion plan last Friday as it chose not to extend the two-year contract for long-haul freight forwarding rendered by Southern Air's two new Boeing 777-200 LRF cargo planes.

The approval came after its negotiations for lower fees in a so-called block space purchase, which would have become effective until March next year, with the Connecticut-based low-cost cargo carrier failed.THAI will now spend up to US$56 million to convert two of its Boeing 747-400 planes, which have been in service for 15-20 years and are due for retirement soon, into full cargo planes.

Conversion is expected to be carried out by Boeing or Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and the planes should be ready for use in the second quarter of next year.

Pichai Chunganuwad, managing director of the cargo and mail commercial department at THAI, said the conversion was regarded as the most economical option available.

THAI can also use the planes for another 10-15 years instead of selling them cheaply.

The converted planes will be able to carry just over 100 tonnes of goods, the same as its previous service provider, over a distance from Bangkok to Frankfurt non-stop.

Over the next five years THAI's converted freighters will grow to five - three for long-haul routes and two for regional.

The regional freighters should have a payload of 50-60 tonnes, the capacity of aircraft such as a converted Airbus A300-600 or Boeing 767.

The freighters will significantly enhance the cargo forwarding capacity under the bellies of THAI's passenger planes, now numbering 91, while enabling the airline to offer more dedicated service.



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