A Thai Airways employee in the beleaguered carrier’s repair and maintenance division is said to have claimed 419 days of overtime in a single year and at a cost of around $96,000. The apparent fraud was revealed as Thailand’s deputy transport minister published a damning report that alleges years of mismanagement and corruption at the loss-making and heavily debt-laden flag carrier.
Thai Airways petitioned for bankruptcy protection in May and is currently seeking approval from a Thai court on a major restructuring of the airline. Thailand’s bankruptcy court won’t issue a ruling until September 14 but until then the airline has received a stay on its ballooning debt.
In the first six months of 2020, Thai Airways recorded a $900 million loss but its financial woes started way before the COVID-19 pandemic grounded flights and plunged airlines around the world into heavy debt.
In 2019, the carrier reported a loss of $109 million with debts mounting to 244 baht. Thai Airways has recorded heavy losses every year bar one since 2013.
The investigation into the airline’s mismanagement found evidence of bribes in the purchase of 10 Airbus A340 aircraft that are said to have had “dire consequences” for the airline. The gas-guzzling planes were bought between 2003 and 2004 in order to operate direct flights to New York and Los Angeles despite serious concerns from a government panel over their ability to be operated profitability.
Thai Airways started to record losses soon after the aircraft entered service. They failed to ever make a profit for the airline.
The report also concludes that there was a major price discrepancy in the operating leases for six Boeing 787 Dreamliners. This included the paying of bribes by engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce through third parties to Thai executives.
Employee overtime also shot up between 2017 and 2019, with some staffers claiming more overtime than there are days in the year. The worst-case was an employee in the repair and maintenance division who claimed 419 days worth of overtime in just 12-months.
Salaries across the board seem to have been inflated, most notably senior executives who received around 10 billion bhat more than they should have earned.
Thailand remains all but closed to international visitors, further amplifying the carrier’s problems. Plans to set up ‘travel bubbles’ with a small number of Asian countries have been scrapped and a proposal to allow long-stay tourists to enter Thailand through Phuket has hit a wall of resistance.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.