Thai Airways International Pcl plans to return to the U.S. market after a United Nations safety upgrade of Thailand’s aviation sector raised the odds of the Federal Aviation Administration following suit.

The state-controlled carrier may add direct flights to America next year if the FAA promotes Thailand to its top safety category, said Krittaphon Chantalitanon, vice president of alliances and commercial strategy. He reaffirmed the airline will add a maximum of 28 narrow- and wide-body aircraft to renew its fleet.

“Part of the strategic plan is to have the aircraft that would be able to fly nonstop from Thailand to the U.S. efficiently,” he said, adding the company is also paring costs to curb losses and achieve sustained profitability in 2018.

The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization earlier this month scrapped a red flag that was imposed on Thailand in 2015 over safety concerns, after remedial steps by the nation’s military government. The red flag led to an FAA downgrade to Category 2, which prohibited Thai carriers from adding new services to the world’s top aviation market by passengers.

Krittaphon said he’s optimistic the FAA will upgrade Thailand given the progress made by the country’s carriers and civil aviation authority.

“We have been working very hard on cost restructuring,” he also said in the interview last week. “We have to be leaner.”

Krittaphon added that:

  • Eventual nonstop U.S. flights may link Bangkok to California or New York
  • Load factor has exceeded 80 percent in the past three months
  • Services to Vienna will start next month, with the city becoming a strategic hub

Thai Airways has declined 25 percent on a total return basis over the past 12 months, the worst performance among Asian airlines with a market value of at least $1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The firm posted losses in three of the past four years.

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This article was written by Natnicha Chuwiruch from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

Photo Credit: Thai Airways could use ultra long haul aircraft like the A350, shown here, to restart flights to the United States. But first it will need to persuade the FAA to restore its safety rating. Rattaphol Kerdkaen / Flickr