Top Official: Thai Airways Must Be Privatised

Thailand's national airline, Thai Airways, is facing critical levels of debt.

BANGKOK — A former Thai Airways executive told a public forum today that privatising Thai Airways is the only way to save the debt-ridden national airline from an imminent financial collapse.

Thai Airways is burdened with a 250 billion baht debt and its current operating funds stand at only 56 billion baht, said Mr. Banyong Pongpanit, a former executive board member of the airline who spoke at the public forum held by Thai Airways executives today.

"The solution is to privatise Thai Airways in a suud soi [all the way into the alley] manner," Mr. Banyong told the audience, using a Thai idiom. "Otherwise the company will face a massive financial crisis in the next 6 months."

Mr. Banyong said that the state-owned Thai Airways can no longer compete with the private airline industry. Although the state assists the airline by mandating that all state agencies  fly with Thai Airways on official trips, the assistance only amounts to 3% of the airline's revenue, Mr, Banyong said.

Mr. Banyong also claimed that the structure of Thai Airways is plagued with favouritism, with officials appointing their favourite civil servants into important positions without any test of professional competence. 

Ms. Deunden Nikomborirak, a research director of Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), echoed Mr. Banyong's concern, stating that political factors have influenced the appointments of many top jobs. 

"It is not wrong for Thai Airways to be a state enterprise, but the heart of the issue is the management and administration," Ms. Deunden said. "Today we must let the private sector, which is equipped with more knowledge and ability, manage the airline, like Singapore Airlines, which has seen much success."

She added that Thai Airways also desperately needs a transparent, accountable management system that is open to public scrutiny and free from political interference.

ACM Prachin Chantong, chief of the Royal Thai Air Force and chairman of Thai Airways' board of executives, said  he welcomes all opinions in order to solve the airline's financial issues. 

He remains optimistic, and expressed hope that over the next year and a half Thai Airways will undergo reforms that allow it to achieve the status of "ASEAN's number 1 airline."




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