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Thai Airways eliminates over 30% of executive positions

Streamlining measure comes weeks before carrier submits restructuring plan

The approved rehabilitation plan is designed to tackle Thai Airways' unprofitable businesses.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Thai Airways International on Friday announced that it is eliminating more than 30% of its executive positions, the troubled airline's latest measure to win over creditors in a court-supervised rehabilitation process.

"The company needs to improve its organizational structure and business strategies in various areas to create greater flexibility in operations, which will lead to increased competitiveness," acting President Chansin Treenuchagron said in a statement written in Thai.

The airline now has 500 executive positions, down from 740. In addition, the executive hierarchy will now consist of five levels. Previously there were eight, from the CEO to team leader.

The national flag carrier last March filed a petition to be rehabilitated under court supervision. It was one of the world's first legacy carriers to go under due to the coronavirus-induced travel disruptions. Its petition was accepted in September, and the company has since been working on a restructuring plan to be submitted by March 2 for approval by the court and eventually its creditors.

The elimination of executive positions is integral to the airline's rehabilitation. Thai Airways' hiring of air force officers regardless of their business acumen is widely seen as a critical factor in the former state-owned national flag carrier's financial plight.

The airline has been releasing its efforts for survival and rehabilitation in bits. In January, it announced that it had raised 2.7 billion baht ($90 million) by selling a 15.5% stake in Bangkok Aviation Fuel Services, which provides airplane fueling and other services. The proceeds will serve as working capital.

There are also industry reports that Thai Airways has been selling off jetliners in the secondary market, though it has not released information about any changes to its aircraft assets.

Thai Airways has often been criticized for the large number of models in its fleet, a factor that increases upkeep and repair costs.

In November, Chansin said 5,000 of roughly 20,000 employees signed up for early retirement.

Recently, a local media report said management has informed workers that the company may only be able to keep 905 of its current 1,300 pilots and 50% to 60% of its 6,000 cabin crew. On Feb. 8, the company said its aircraft and workforce adjustments are ongoing.

Ahead of the submission deadline, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, a deputy prime minister in charge of economic affairs, instructed the Ministry of Finance to conduct a further study of the rehabilitation plan's key points, such as debt structure, cash reserves and the airline's ability to service debt. The Ministry of Finance is the company's largest -- but not the majority -- shareholder.

"We need to do a lot more homework and weigh the information we have carefully to pinpoint the airline's real debt-servicing capacity," Supattanapong said.

As of Sept. 30, the company's total liabilities stood at 338.9 billion baht against total assets of 298.9 billion baht. Total shareholder equity was at minus 39.9 billion baht. Thai Airways has not released its financial results for the quarter ended December.

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