Thai Airways-Airbus MRO Project In Doubt As Proposal Deadline Passes

A rendering of the planned MRO facility at U-Tapao.
Credit: Airbus

After missing a March 6 deadline to submit its proposal for an MRO joint venture (JV) with Thai Airways at U-Tapao Airport, Airbus has now missed the new April 20 deadline as well.

Cherdphan Chotikhun, EVP of Thai Airways engineering arm Thai Technical, told local reporters that the MRO project is a key part of the flag-carrier’s recovery plan and other investors would be sought if Airbus pulls out. A new bid document will be submitted for approval in May. 

Cherdphan attributed the delay to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit both Thai Airways and Airbus hard financially. 

In response to queries from Aviation Daily regarding the situation, an Airbus spokesperson said: “We are in discussions with our partners in Thailand regarding the most suitable way forward for all parties. The content of discussions with partners and customers alike, remain confidential.”

The MRO facility is one of five projects for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), led by the Thai government. U-Tapao Airport (UTP) lies around 90 miles southeast of Bangkok and serves the cities of Rayong and Pattaya. 

Should the JV fall through, the land would risk being returned to the Royal Thai Navy and redeveloped into a different EEC project, the Eastern Airport City. 

In 2019, Thai Airways and Airbus inked an agreement to jointly invest around THB11 billion ($335 million) in construction of a new MRO center by 2022. The facility would have capacity to handle 80-100 aircraft annually with capabilities for A320s, A330s, A350s and A380s, as well as Boeing 737, 747, 777 and 787 aircraft for C and D level checks.  

Airbus is expecting a drawn-out crisis as it announced a one-third production cut across all aircraft types in early April. Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said in the same announcement that the OEM was “working on operational and financial mitigation measures to face reality.” 

Numerous customers have already expressed their intentions to defer aircraft deliveries. According to a Reuters report, Airbus is now selling four A320neos and two A321neos previously destined for Malaysian LCC AirAsia. AirAsia X previously confirmed that it will defer the delivery of its new A330neos.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.