Thai Airways International has taken delivery of the first of four A340-500s, with the aircraft also being the first in the entire fleet to be painted in the airline’s striking new livery. This event marks the start of a major Airbus widebody fleet expansion programme, which will also see six A340-600s entering service between 2005- 08 and six A380-800s entering service between 2008-09.

The A340-500s will bring ‘Smooth as Silk’ levels of service to a completely new network of ultra long-haul services from Bangkok to North America, whilst the A340-600s will replace older aircraft currently operated to secondary cities in Europe. Thai Airways International’s A380s are destined to operate on major trunk routes from Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi airport to major destinations in Europe.

All four A340-500s and six A340-600s in the Thai Airways International fleet will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines, which burn up to 20 per cent less fuel than older generation engines, whilst providing outstanding range and payload performance.

Thai Airways International currently operates a fleet of 21 A300-600s and 12 A330-300s on its regional network across Asia-Pacific.

“The A340-500 ultra long haul aircraft will open up a completely new market for THAI. For the first time, we will be able to offer direct non-stop services between Thailand and the USA and our A340-500 will have a unique configuration giving passengers extra space and comfort on their long flights” said Kanok Abhiradee, President of Thai Airways International.

“The relationship between Thai Airways International and Airbus stretches back to the first A300 order in 1977 and I am naturally delighted to see the airline take delivery of our latest generation widebody A340-500 as the first step in its long haul Airbus fleet expansion.” said Noel Forgeard, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer. “With Thailand’s strong domestic economy and booming tourism & trade, I am particularly confident of a bright future for Thai Airways International’s new Airbus fleet operating from the all new Suvarnabhumi hub airport.”

Thai Airways International’s selection of the A340-500/-600 further reinforces the success of the A330/A340 Family as the preferred choice of airlines worldwide in the medium to long-range segment, with almost 900 total orders from 66 customers. The A330/A340 Family has been especially successful in Asia-Pacific, with 180 aircraft currently in service with 17 airlines, including almost every major international carrier in the region.

A leading aircraft manufacturer with the most modern and comprehensive product line on the market, Airbus is a global company with design and manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, the UK, and Spain as well as subsidiaries in the U.S., China and Japan. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is an EADS joint Company with BAE SYSTEMS.