PoliticsThailandTransport

Thailand to spend US$250 million on private VIP jets

Billionaire jets to help 'aid victims of natural disasters'

The Cabinet approved an 8.8-billion-baht (US$270 million) budget to procure private VIP jets for members of the Thai royal family, ministers and honoured guests.

Proposed by the prime minister’s secretariat and approved on Tuesday, the plan includes the procurement of new aircraft and components and the training of personnel. It’s just the latest of many curious budget decisions we can expect before the forthcoming general election as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha seeks to establish his legacy.

The money will be spent over four years from the fiscal year 2024 – 1.75 billion baht in 2024, 2.19 billion baht in 2025, 2.20 billion baht in 2026 and 2.63 billion baht in 2027.

The main beneficiary of the private VIP jets appears to be the Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) which wants to replace the old Airbus A340-500 procured from Thai Airways for VIP travel. The Airbus is currently used to transport VIPs but also for humanitarian missions, aiding victims of natural disasters and evacuation of Thai nationals abroad.

The Airbus in question is the only one operated by the air force. It was delivered to Thai Airways in 2005 and sent to storage in June 2012 before entering service with the air force in August 2016.

The proposal said…

“The airbus, which THAI used between 2005 and 2012, was commissioned in 2015. The RTAF has prepared an operational plan, budget expenditure, corruption risk assessment and list of procurement needs.”

The Airbus A340-500 is now quite rare on commercial passenger flights, with the last scheduled operator removing it from the schedule earlier this year.

However, the RTAF aircraft has been very well maintained. The air force recently set a record for the Airbus A340-500 completing what appears to be the longest flight ever operated by the aircraft.

Flight RTAF202 departed Don Mueang Airport at 6.10am Wednesday and passed between Taiwan and the Philippines before being spotted to the east of Japan. After disappearing from public radar over the North Pacific, the aircraft was spotted once again crossing the Gulf of Alaska before entering United States airspace in Washington State.

The aircraft touched town at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina after a total flight time of 18 hours and 14 minutes.

Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.