Thai Airways Executive Board Chairman Under Investigation





Thai Airways Executive Board Chairman Under Investigation

By Mike Mitchell

December 19, 2009 - Thai Airways has reported that its executive board would launch an investigation into a report that the Thai Executive Chairman, Wallop Bhukkanasut, his wife and others had traveled from Tokyo to Bangkok on November 14, 2009, with 40 pieces of luggage weighing a combined 500 kilograms in which they evaded paying a luggage fee of $6,024, a revenue lost for the financially struggling carrier and that they did not pay a government customs declaration tax by having their baggage delivered to the lost and found at Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. 

Labor union, president Jaemsri Sukchotirat, has submitted a letter to the Senate Committee on Corruption and Good Governance requesting a fact finding investigation into the baggage scandal has called for Bhukkanasut to resign.  


Thai Airways board has approved to set up a committee to examine the allegations made against Bhukkanasut. The finding will be made available within three weeks. Ampon Kittiampon, chairman of the airline's board, told reporters after a meeting on Friday.  On the same day a number of Thai Airways employees went to work dressed in black as a protest in the scandal of chairman Wallop Bhukkanasut walking away from Suvarnabhumi Airport without paying for excess baggage fees. 

Bhukkanasut has blamed politics on this growing controversy. In a radio interview with the Nation Group, Wallop insisted much of the luggage was dried foods and fruits that a local temple’s disciples had asked him to bring back, a “normal request” that he claimed were often treated with leniency. 

Thai Airways International Public Company Limited is the national air carrier of Thailand, operating out of Suvarnabhumi Airport, and is a founding member of the Star Alliance network. It is headquartered in Bangkok. Thai is a major shareholder which holds 39% shares of Nok Air - a low-cost Bangkok based carrier. The airline also operates one of the longest non-stop commercial flights, including the 18 hours non-stop flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles. 

Skytrax awarded Thai Airways International 'Worlds Best Cabin Staff and The Best Airline in the World' in 2006, while placing second in the 'Airline of the Year' category in 2007.. Thai's first class lounge at Suvarnabhumi Airport was awarded World's Best First Class Lounge by Skytrax in 2009. Thai Airways International has received an award for the excellence of its in-flight hygiene measures by the World Health Organization.


The airline started as Thai Airways International, a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) which initially held a 30% share capital of 2 million Baht, along with a domestic carrier, Thai Airways Company to create an international wing for Thai Airways. SAS helped Thai in managing, marketing and operating its business. 

The carrier's first flight was on 1 May 1960. Flights were operated to nine overseas Asian destinations out of Bangkok. The first intercontinental services started in 1971 to Australia, then to Europe in 1972 and North America in 1980. 

After achieving profitability for the previous 40 years, Thai made a loss for the first time in 2008 at around 21 billion Baht on high fuel costs and Thailand's political situation. As of Q2 of 2009, after a series of restructuring initiative, the carrier returned to a net profit of 2.5 billion Baht.  

Thai Airways has announced that it is trying to sell its fleet of four Airbus A340-500 aircraft which was used to fly between Bangkok and New York, but has not yet done so due to the world economic crisis and the weak market for an aircraft with a relatively high seat-mile-cost. The Airbus A340-500s are now being used for flights between Bangkok and Oslo. All four airliners will stay in the fleet and might be reconfiguration and deployed on other profitably routes. As of October 2009, it appears that at least one A340 is back serving the LAX route. 

According to the special interview of Mr. Wallop, one of Thai's board of directors, stated that it is "Unavoidable" for the airline to resume flights to New York because A340-500s are still there. The plan is to make all planes better utilized, add more seats and move from New York JFK to Newark Liberty International Airport, which is a hub of new Star Alliance member, Continental Airlines.
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