Thai Airways International Pcl said it plans to operate the Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo to London’s Heathrow airport following delivery of its fifth and sixth aircraft later this year.
Thai can’t be more specific about when the A380 will serve Europe’s busiest air hub because delivery dates from Airbus aren’t certain, U.K. and Ireland General Manager Khun Wit Kitchathorn said in an interview yesterday in London.
The A380s will substitute for one of two services provided by Boeing Co. 747-400s that will return to the London route this month after a year’s gap for refurbishment, he said. The 747’s cargo flexibility makes retention of one service desirable, with the jumbo regularly carrying outsize items such as Porsche and Ferrari sports cars that the Airbus would struggle to handle.
“Frequencies are the most important thing, and from that point of view I’d rather have three 747s serving London,” Kitchathorn said. “But the A380 is also a prestige aircraft so we’d welcome it of course.”
Thai’s next A380s are slated to arrive in October or November, Serena Kelly, its deputy sales manager, said in London at an event to publicize the 747 refurbishment, reiterating that the timings aren’t definite.
Thai will reintroduce the Boeing jets to London from March 31, returning capacity on the route to almost 750 seats a day from 534 during a year of operations by Airbus A340-600s. Two planes are required to provide a single frequency because of the distance involved. A 747-A380 combination could seat 881 people.
London might even be able to support four daily frequencies if the aircraft deployed including smaller Boeing 777 planes, Kitchathorn said. A service to Manchester is another option.
Two daily flights to London split between an A380 and 747 would match Thai’s service to Frankfurt, the main focus for the carrier’s European transfer traffic via the network of Star Alliance partner Deutsche Lufthansa AG. Thai’s first two A380s were deployed to provide the German service.
The Bangkok-based carrier will also operate a daily A380 service to Paris using its third and fourth A380s from the end of this month. The service is being cut from 10 frequencies a week because of the greater number of seats available on the double-decker superjumbo.
Thai’s Southeast Asian rivals Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Malaysian Airline System Bhd. already fly the A380 to London.