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Thailand’s Nok Air renewing its fleet one 737-800 at a time

Feb 19, 2013 12:30 am

Skift Take

With fewer than a dozen jets and the rest of the fleet used aircraft, Nok Air will take advantage of the fuel efficiency and spacious interior of the Boeing 737-800.

— Dennis Schaal

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Boeing

Nok Air of Thailand took delivery of its first Boeing 737-800, similar to the one pictured. It is the first time that Nok Air has a new aircraft in service since it previously only operated jets with a lot of miles on them. Boeing


The B737-800, with a registration of HS-DBK, is visibly different from the rest of Nok Air’s fledgling Boeing fleet, both outside and inside.

The single-aisle jet, named Nok Sabai, has what seems to be a one-of-a-kind bird-like motif on its blue and white fuselage, while the aircraft’s nose is painted with a yellow beak  a common feature of all other Nok Air aircraft.

But the real difference lies inside: the smell of new car, a greater sense of cabin space and a feel of modernity that a normal passenger can appreciate.

A major makeover in the cabin has brought new stowage bins, sidewalls, lighting, ceiling panels, air vents, passenger service units, flight attendant panels, black Recaro seats and toilets.

There is more room for carry-on bags in the larger stow bins, which take up less space as they sweep up towards the ceiling — a feature presented in the innovative Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

On the ceiling, bright light-emitting diodes can portray different colour schemes such as a soft blue sky and a relaxing pallet of sunset colours.

Welcome on board Nok Air’s first brand-new B737-800, the latest update of the next-generation 737 outfitted with the Boeing Sky Interior, which is ushering in a new era for the nine-year-old Thai airline that had previously deployed only used aircraft.

Nok Air chief executive Patee Sarasin, who last Thursday took delivery of the jet at GMF AeroAsia’s Jakarta hangar, where it was painted in Nok Air livery, said Nok Sabai’s newness will create a special appeal to passengers.

“The aircraft will set the new standard for style and comfort in the single-aisle jetliner market in this region,” said the 50-year-old executive. “It’s going to be popular among passengers, I believe.”

Its arrival marks the start of the airline’s fleet modernisation that will see more new B737-800 jets joining its fleet, which will have its average age reduced to four to five years from 15-17 years in the past, said Mr Patee.

Nok Sabai, the airline’s ninth jet, makes its maiden commercial flight this morning from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

A second new B737-800 from Boeing’s Seattle plant is due to join Nok Air next year.

Nok Air is rejuvenating its fleet to take advantage of newer aircraft’s better fuel economy, lower maintenance and less ground time.

But Mr Patee said the airline will not have a fleet comprising all new jets but a mix of new and relatively young aircraft.

Nok Air also took delivery of its 10th jet, also a B737-800 but a used one, from Jakarta, where it was painted with the orange-white clown fish motif.

One or two more B737-800s will join Nok Air’s fleet this year, while a couple more are planned for next year, according to Mr Patee.

Beyond 2014, it’s hard to say what the airline’s fleet size will be as Nok Air wants to ensure traffic volume will support the maximum use of each aircraft.

“Airlines sometimes talk about enlarging their fleets before they have a good idea where they will fly these additional planes to, but for us it’s better to plan the routes before actually acquiring the aircraft,” Mr Patee said.

Nok Sabai, leased for 12 years from MC Aviation Partners, which is part of Mitsubishi Corporation, will be put on the airline’s domestic routes.

While new aircraft are more expensive to lease than used ones, Mr Patee said higher costs would be offset by benefits arising from lower maintenance, fuel economy and breakdown costs.

“For a brand-new jet like this, we plan daily utilisation of 11.5 hours, while the older ones get something like seven hours, so all in all it is more economical to use a new plane,” Mr Patee said.

He avoided comparing the new jet’s enhanced passenger experience with those of rivals such as Thai AirAsia and its sibling THAI Smiles, which deploy new Airbus 320-200s.

“Our success comes by looking at ourselves first before looking at anybody else,” Mr Patee said.

(c)2013 the Bangkok Post (Bangkok, Thailand). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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