Published: 21/04/2011 The cabinet yesterday gave Thai Airways International the right to decide by itself the means of acquiring new aircraft instead of using a specific method advocated by the Transport Ministry. That means the national flag carrier reserves the right to purchase and/or lease 75 aircraft over a 12-year period under a 457.12 billion baht budget it was seeking. The ruling was seen as a blow to the Transport Ministry which had strongly advocated that the new fleet of aircraft be purchased. The ministry has been at odds with THAI over several major issues such as control of expansion plans or new ventures. According to THAI president Piyasvasti Amranand, the airline should acquire new jets through a combination of leasing or buying as the airline's cashflow and debt situation warranted. Purchasing aircraft was seen as capital intensive, creating large debts which could burden the airline, while leasing only incurred operating costs and these could also be spread out over the contract period. The cabinet's approval paves the way for THAI, now stuck with a large fleet of ageing, inefficient aircraft, to proceed with its long-awaited fleet renewal, one of the largest of its kind in Asia, which will allow it to compete with leading international airlines. The new fleet will be bought in two batches - 37 planes in the first phase between now and 2017 with a budget of 210.6 billion baht, plus spare engines worth 5.47 billion baht, and then 38 planes between 2018 and 2022 with a budget of 229 billion baht, plus spare engines worth 11.98 billion baht. In a related development, the THAI board yesterday endorsed the leasing of two Boeing 777-300ERs from India's Jet Airways for a period of two years with delivery scheduled in October and November. The board also granted approval to commission US plane maker Boeing to convert two 747-400 passenger planes into freighters for delivery in March and April next year.