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In a move reflecting its aggressive expansion, no-frills carrier Thai AirAsia (TAA) wants to expand its fleet to 50 jetliners by 2016, 10 more planes than it earlier planned.

Over the next five years, the airline will add 26 single-aisle A320 jets to support its fast-growing domestic and regional network, according to the airline's application for listing submitted recently to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The document also provides a breakdown of the aircraft delivery schedule: five aircraft this year, six next year and five each year from 2014 to 2016.

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Thai Airways International is reviewing its plan to acquire 38 new aircraft after it lost more than 10 billion baht last year, says chairman Amphon Kittiamphon.

The board of the national carrier instructed management to conduct a careful review and proceed cautiously with the plan to add 38 more jets. Any decisions must be in line with the company’s financial status after last year’s loss, Mr Amphon said.

He said the acquisition plan must take into account all factors affecting the company last year, for example, rising fuel prices, natural disasters and flooding.

However, the consideration of the plan would not affect THAI's overall operation. The company would not reduce its fleet size and would act in line with earlier cabinet resolutions supporting fleet expansion.  

"The board has approved in principle that new aircraft should be acquired by means of short-term leasing because it will not affect [the airline's] financial situation," Mr Amphon said.   

THAI reported a net loss for 2011 of 10.2 billion baht, compared with a net profit of 14.7 billion in 2010, even though its revenues last year rose 5% to 194.3 billion baht.

The company attributed the reversal to a number of factors including more costly fuel, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami which severely curtailed travel, and the year-end flooding that further hurt travel and tourism to Thailand.

The cabinet last year approved a Transport Ministry proposal for THAI to purchase or lease 75 aircraft over a 12-year period with a total budget of 457.12 billion baht, in order to replace some of the THAI's ageing, inefficient planes.

The new fleet would be acquired in two batches -- 37 planes in the first phase between now and 2017 with a budget of 210.6 billion baht, plus spare engines worth 5.47 billion, and then 38 planes between 2018 and 2022 for 229 billion baht, plus spare engines worth 11.98 billion.

The acquisitions of the first batch of planes have been completed and deliveries will begin this year.

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