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Thai Airways president steps down for “health reasons”

Thai Airways does obviously not good for the health of its presidents. The Thai national carrier last President Sorajak Kasemsuvan just announced to resign for “health reasons” from January 2nd. No observer of the Thai aviation scene might  feel fooled by this decision as Mr. Kasemsuvan felt already the heat a few months ago as the carrier was losing money…

BANGKOK- Thai Airways International (THAI) announced at the end of last week the resignation of Mr. Sorajak Kasemsuvan, its President. Mr. Kanit Sangsubhan, Chairman of the Executive Board of THAI Board of Directors declared that Sorajak Kasemsuvan THAI President, has tendered a letter of resignation to the Board of Directors, citing ‘health reasons.  

The official statement from Thai indicates that “as the advice by medical physicians to take a medical leave of absence for a minimum of 2-3 months would have an impact on the duties of the President and on Company operations, Mr. Kasemsuvan has, therefore, submitted his resignation from the position of THAI President, as well as from Nok Air Board of Directors and THAI Smile Board of Directors”.

The Thai Airways Press Release indicates that “the airline’s Board of Directors has approved and accepted the resignation of Mr. Kasemsuvan, after having considered that Mr. Kasemsuvan has demonstrated much diligence in the duties of the President since taking this position in 2012, and having considered the medial reasons for the resignation and potential impact to the Company.  The date for the resignation to take effect shall be from 2 January 2014”.

However, any observer knows that relations between Thai President and the Board of Directors were not at their best. The Board of Directors and his politically influent chairman Ampon Kitiampon were at odds with the President. The Board of Directors in fact blamed the outgoing TG President about his incapacity to turn around the airline’s good fortune. Thai Airways has seen its financial performance worsening this year as the airline lost THB 8.4 billion in second quarter of the financial year compared to 1.5 billion a year earlier. Low morale, nepotism, political interferences, Thai Airways is plagued by many  problems. As the airline belongs to the Ministry of Finance, most of the members of its Board of Directors are politically appointees. And most of the time, this board of directors is more concerned about its own financial rewards than the well-being of the airline.

This explains why Thai Airways Presidents feel rapidly “sick” after a few months at the top as they have in reality little space to implement a real growth strategy with a strong vision. Mr. Kasemsuwan learned that it could change very little within the current structure of the carrier. The departure of the President appears rather as an embarrassment for Thailand’s flag carrier. Unfortunately, this gesture is unlikely to change the fundamentals at Thai Airways International. In fact, without a total revamp of the airline, Thai Airways is condemned to become a second-tier airline….

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.