The new Thai Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob has approved Thai Airways International's plans to buy and lease 38 aircraft at a total cost of around THB136 billion bahts (USD4.5 billion), English-language daily The Bangkok Post has reported.

Details of the fleet renewal drive were not disclosed. The Thai flag carrier said previously that its forthcoming orders would include both narrowbody equipment for Thai Smile (WE, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi) and widebody aircraft for the mainline unit. Airline president and chief executive, Sumeth Damrongchaitham, told local media earlier this year that the purchase would be done in two phases; the first will see 25 aircraft replace 19 currently in service while the second will see 13 replace 12.

For his part, Saksayam underlined that the carrier needs to renew its fleet to remain competitive despite the costs associated with the process. Workers' unions have objected to the fleet renewal programme, citing existing high debts of Thai Airways as a reason. They are now gathering additional information on the procurement plan before sending them to the cabinet which must still approve the order.

"If we don't invest and instead let the business run at a loss, it will stay like that," Saksayam said.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Thai's current fleet includes fifteen A330-300s, twelve A350-900s, six A380-800s, nine B747-400s, six B777-200s, six B777-200(ER)s, six B777-300, fourteen B777-300(ER)s, six B787-8s, and two B787-9s. Thai Smile operates twenty A320-200s.

Saksayam refused to discuss the personnel reshuffle at the helm of Thai Airways. The carrier's current President Ekniti Nitithanprapas has reportedly submitted his resignation together with a number of other executives from state-owned transport companies following the appointment of Saksayam as the minister after the May 2019 elections in Thailand.