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THAI uses new jets for Italy

Thai Airways International (THAI) has opted to use its latest Airbus 350 XWB jets for its Italian services, starting from the middle of this month.

The flag carrier made the decision after it became apparent that approval from Australia for it to deploy the technologically advanced aircraft on its Bangkok-Melbourne route would not be forthcoming.

THAI will use its first two A350 XWBs for its Bangkok-Rome and Bangkok-Milan routes to replace old Boeing 777-200ERs.

THAI operates four non-stop flights a week to each of the two Italian routes.

"Europe has no issues about us operating A350 XWBs to their airports," an airline insider told the Bangkok Post.

Furthermore, European civil aviation authorities do not object to THAI switching to A350 XWBs, which are made by the European planemaker Airbus, he said.

Australian civil aviation authorities have kept THAI in the dark as to whether or when it will approve the airline's application to operate the world's latest commercial airliner to and from Australia.

Industry analysts suggested Australian authorities' delay in granting the permission to THAI may have to do with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) red-flagging Thailand for its aviation safety shortcomings.

One of the main consequences of the action is Thai-registered airlines such as THAI are not allowed to change aircraft types on international routes they are already operating.

Australian civil aviation authorities were cited as saying they were "unfamiliar" with this type of aircraft, thus requiring more time to consider THAI's application, though it has allowed a couple of international airlines to fly similar A350 XWBs to some Australian cities already.

THAI earlier planned to commence regular flights of its first A350 XWB on the Melbourne route on Sept 16, two weeks after the first of 12 such aircraft was delivered from Airbus's final assembly plant in Toulouse.

THAI's plan to deploy A350 XWBs on the Melbourne flights remains in place, but it intends to use the aircraft for its other European routes while Australian approval is pending.

The airline is due to take delivery of five A350 XWB jets between March to September next year, and these aircraft will likely be used on THAI's European network.

THAI will continue to operate Boeing 777-300ERs on its twice-daily Melbourne services while it awaits approval for the new jets.

The airline's A350 XWB Italian services are planned for inauguration on Nov 16 and the deployment will be much advertised on Italian soil.

In the meantime, the airline's two existing A350 XWBs will continue to operate "run-in" flights from Bangkok to Dubai and Singapore as well as popular domestic routes such as Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket.

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