Thai Airways International (THAI) has confirmed it is experiencing a substantial decrease in passengers from East Asia due to the political stand-off.

Acting president Chokchai Panyayong said the board acknowledged THAI’s losses in the first quarter of this year are due to a drop in passengers from China, Japan and South Korea.

The company recorded losses of 30 million baht more than expected, he said, declining to reveal the actual figures due to regulations imposed by the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

THAI’s acting president said the drop in passengers could also be attributed to competition from new airlines.

Once the political chaos is resolved, the situation is likely to improve, he said.

In the first quarter of the year, the number of THAI’s Chinese passengers dropped by 25.8%, Japanese by 8%, and South Korean by 17%.

The number of Chinese tourists in Thailand dropped by 27.2% in the first three months, Japanese tourists dropped 25.2% and South Korean tourists by 12.9%.

Mr Chokchai said THAI’s cabin factor in the first quarter of this year was 68.7%, lower than 80.3% in the same period of last year.

The cabin factor refers to the percentage of seats sold.

The total number of passengers using the airline in March was 1.59 million, a drop of 20.5% on the same period last year.

In the second half of this year, THAI would focus on the transit passenger market due to large number of passengers transiting through Thailand.

Mr Chokchai said company management is launching an early retirement programme for groups of employees.

The decision is aimed at streamlining and boosting efficiency of the organisation. The company aims to cut the number of employees, currently at 25,000 and match employees to operations by reducing the average age of staff.

Details of the programme are expected to be proposed for board approval next month.

THAI plans to sell off some of its older planes later this year to cut maintenance costs. The aircraft are expected to fetch between US$2 million (64 million baht) and $4 million each.

The company will also add 12 new aircraft to its fleet this year, Mr Chokchai said.

Photo Credit: Interior of a Thai Airways economy class cabin. lukelai / Flickr