BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai Airways International, whose earnings have been hit by fierce competition and high operating costs, denied local media reports that 200 pilots have suddenly left the company due to concerns over the carrier's finances.
It is untrue that 200 pilots have left the company, First Lieutenant Athisak Padchuenjai, executive vice-president for operations, told a press briefing in Bangkok on Monday. About 30 pilots have resigned this year, but that has not affected the airline's operations, he said.
The media reports sent Thai Airways shares down 1.9 per cent at 7.55am GMT, while the broad index was 0.45 per cent higher.
The airline is undergoing restructuring after the carrier, majority-owned by the government, posted losses for five straight quarters. It plans to shed more than a quarter of its full-time employees by 2018.
Thai Air has also vowed to boost revenue and transform itself into a world-class carrier again in the next five years. The airline has yet to say how it would achieve that goal exactly.
Acting president Air Chief Marshall Siwakiat Jayema told reporters on Monday that the airline would rework its business strategy plan after an initial proposal was rejected by a military-appointed committee overseeing state enterprises.
The committee widely known as the "super board" was set up by Thailand's military government to scrutinise operations of state companies. Thai Air is at the top of the junta's list of firms to undergo restructuring. "The super board has asked the Thai Air board to work on details of the restructuring because the existing plan has no details on how the airline will become a leader in the region and on the appropriate size of its fleet," Mr Siwakiat said.
The airline will hold the next board meeting on Aug 29 to set up a new board to draft the plan, Mr Siwakiat said, adding that Thai Airways' plan to seek 20 billion baht (S$782 million) in loans would be delayed pending the approval of the restructuring plan.
The proposal to cut 1,500 jobs this year is not affected.
Captain Montree Jumrieng, executive vice-president of the airline, said the appropriate number of aircraft in Thai Air's fleet should be 80 versus 100 now, and the appropriate number of employees should be 18,000 versus 24,000 currently.
As of August, Thai Airways had 1,350 pilots.
The airline recruits about 100 student pilots every year, and they undergo a two-year training programme that costs about 4 million baht per student pilot, Mr Athisak said.