29 March 1960 |
(merged with Thai Airways Company on 1 April 1988)
|Frequent-flyer program||Royal Orchid Plus|
|Company slogan||Smooth as Silk / I Fly THAI|
|Parent company||Ministry of Finance (51%)|
|Headquarters||89 Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Jom Phol Subdistrict, Chatuchak, Bangkok, Thailand|
Thai Airways International Public Company Limited, trading as THAI (SET: THAI, Thai: บริษัท การบินไทย จำกัด (มหาชน)) is the flag carrier airline of Thailand. Formed in 1988, the airline has its corporate headquarters in Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, Chatuchak District, Bangkok, and primarily operates out of Suvarnabhumi Airport. THAI is a founding member of the Star Alliance. The airline is the second-largest shareholder of the low-cost carrier Nok Air with a 21.80 percent stake, and it launched a regional carrier under the name Thai Smile in the middle of 2012 using new Airbus A320 aircraft.
From its hub at Suvarnabhumi Airport and secondary hub at Phuket International Airport, THAI (including subsidiaries) flies to 84 destinations in 37 countries, using a fleet of over 90 aircraft. The airline was once the operator of two of the world's longest non-stop routes between Bangkok and Los Angeles and New York City, but due to high fuel prices, the withdrawal of aircraft, luggage weight limits and rising airfares, the airline abandoned all non-stop US services in 2012 indefinitely. As of 2013, services between Bangkok and Los Angeles were served via Incheon International Airport near Seoul, however, it ended its service to the US on 25 October 2015. THAI's route network is dominated by flights to Europe, East Asia, and South/Southwest Asia, though the airline serves five cities in Oceania. THAI was the first Asia-Pacific airline to serve London Heathrow Airport. Among Asia-Pacific carriers, THAI has one of the largest passenger operations in Europe.
THAI Airways has its origins in 1960 as a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which held a 30 percent share of the new company valued at two million Thai baht, and Thailand's domestic carrier, Thai Airways Company (Thai: เดินอากาศไทย). The purpose of the joint venture was to create an international wing for the domestic carrier Thai Airways Company. SAS also provided operational, managerial, and marketing expertise, with training assistance aimed at building a fully independent national airline within the shortest possible time. Thai nationals, through training and experience, were gradually able to assume full managerial responsibility and the number of expatriate staff duly decreased, with expatriates accounting for less than one percent of staff based in Thailand in 1987. The carrier's first revenue flight was on 1 May 1960. Flights were operated to nine overseas Asian destinations from Bangkok.
The airline's first intercontinental services using Douglas DC-8s started in 1971 to Australia, and then to Europe the following year. A number of the larger Douglas DC-10 wide-body tri-jet was acquired in the later 1970s. Services to North America commenced in 1980.
On 1 April 1977, after 17 years of capital participation by SAS, the Thai government bought out the remaining 15 percent of SAS-owned shares and THAI became an airline owned by the Thai government. In 2016, the company is 51 percent owned by the Thai Ministry of Finance. Forty-seven percent of its shares trade on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.
1980s and 1990s: merger with Thai Airways Company
On 1 April 1988, then-Prime Minister Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, in seeking to have a single national carrier, merged the international and domestic operations of the two companies to form the present company, Thai Airways International. On 25 June 1991, the new THAI listed its shares on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and offered them to the public. The THAI public offering of shares is the largest ever undertaken in the country.
2000s: Airline brand renewal and financial difficulties
Throughout the 2000s (decade), THAI aggressively continued its route network expansion with new services to Chengdu, Busan, Chennai, Xiamen, Milan, Moscow, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Johannesburg (later suspended) and Oslo.
Using the Airbus A340-500s it acquired in 2005, THAI commenced non-stop flights from Bangkok to New York, its first non-stop services to North America. The airline later converted existing one-stop services to Los Angeles into non-stop services using the same aircraft type. Citing very high fuel costs, THAI discontinued the New York service in July 2008, even though the airline had been able to fill 80 percent of the seats. The service to Los Angeles was again reverted to one-stop service via Seoul on 1 May 2012, leaving the airline without a non-stop service between Thailand and North America. The A340s used have been phased out using the Boeing 777-200ER for the Bangkok–Seoul–Los-Angeles route. Although the previous A340 used for non-stop services was not subject to ETOPS, the phasing in of the 777 with one-stop service (with the 330 minute rule) will be indefinite for years to come; the airline has no plans to pursue newer North America destinations (e.g., Houston, TX, USA) or purchase the Boeing 747-8 for trans-Pacific routes since Thai Airways is operating the Airbus A380.
In 2006, THAI moved its hub operations to the new Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Coinciding with the arrival of new aircraft during the mid-2000s, as well as its new hub airport in Bangkok, the airline launched a brand renewal by introducing a new aircraft livery, new aircraft seating, and revamped ground and air services.
During the late-2000s, THAI's aggressive growth was hampered by a combination of internal and external factors, including a spike in fuel prices, domestic political conflict in Thailand, and the global economic crisis of the late-2000s. In 2008, after achieving profitability for the previous 40 years, THAI recorded a loss for the first time in its history of around 21 billion baht (US$675 million). The airline cited high fuel costs and Thailand's political situation. As of Q2 2009, after a series of restructuring initiatives, including a two-year deferral of its Airbus A380 deliveries, the carrier returned to a net profit of 2.5 billion baht. It has since received its first A380s and commenced service to Hong Kong on 6 October 2012.
2010s: Fleet renewal and expansion
While celebrating its 50-year anniversary in 2010, THAI, spearheaded by Piyasvasti Amranand, its president and a former energy minister, charted new plans for the airline's future, including a significant aircraft fleet renewal and an upgrade of existing services. THAI has since placed orders for a number of aircraft, including the cost-efficient Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, and it has also launched a refurbishment of its Boeing 747 and 777 cabins. Mindful of rising fuel costs, the airline has now phased-out the most inefficient aircraft, including its Airbus A340-500s. The airline took delivery of its first Airbus A380 aircraft in the last half of 2012, intending to eventually deploy the aircraft on its core European routes.
THAI has also resumed its network expansion with the resumption of flights to Brussels, in addition to a new non-stop flight from Stockholm and Copenhagen to Phuket. At the same time, the Greek debt crisis caused THAI to suspend its services to Athens.
As part of THAI's broader growth strategy in the region, THAI launched a regional carrier with light-premium services, Thai Smile which operate narrow-bodied Airbus A320-200 on regional and domestic routes. The new airline initiated commercial operations in July 2012, after its first A320s were received.
THAI expects to be the first carrier in Asia to fly commercial flights using biofuels. The carrier launched the initiative with experimental flights in December 2011 as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility program, otherwise known as "Travel Green". THAI hopes to stimulate sustained biofuel production in Thailand by working with Thai government agencies and regional corporate partners, such as PTT Public Company Limited. The effort aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in regional air travel as well as position Thailand to be the "bio hub" of Asia.
All Thai airlines are presently (April 2015) under safety review following a negative audit from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The general implications and possible effect on code share flights are reviewed by Watson, Farley and Williams.
On 1 December 2015, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced their reassessment of the safety rating for Thailand, downgrading it from a Category 1 to Category 2 country. The FAA stated, "U.S. and Thai aviation officials have a long-standing cooperative relationship and both our countries work continuously to meet the challenge of ensuring aviation safety. A Category 2 International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) rating means that the country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority—a body equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters—is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures. With a Category 2 rating, Thailand’s air carriers can continue existing routes to the United States but they won't be allowed to establish new routes to the United States."
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) declined to blacklist any Thai carriers following a review of certain carriers in November 2015. THAI later received third country operator (TCO) certification from the EU, effective 15 December 2015, authorizing the carrier to continue flying to the EU for the foreseeable future.
In July 2015, THAI entered a promotional deal with South Korean pop group Girls' Generation, including an appearance in the music video for their song "Party". Also in July 2015, THAI announced the planned cancellation of service to Los Angeles after 25 October 2015, marking the end of US service.
In June 2016, as a result of its reconstruction plan, THAI announced to commence three-weekly Tehran service (however, later it stopped its service on Feb 28, 2018) and resume Moscow service from October and November 2016 respectively. The airline also considered to return to the United States using Boeing 787-9 by 2017. However, Charamporn Jothikastira, THAI president, turned down the possibility of returning to Los Angeles or New York City due to massive loss in the past. Instead, THAI eyed other cities such as San Francisco and Seattle. While Thai Smile, its subsidiary, is planning for new regional routes such as Cebu, Medan, Surabaya, Chandigarh, Shantou and Tianjin.
In August 2016, THAI introduced new route network management system. Following the system, many flight schedules were changed to match each other, allowing intercontinental passengers to transit via Bangkok more conveniently. THAI planned preliminary to adjust 13 routes schedules mainly in Japan, Australia and India. The routes that have been announced are Perth and Brisbane.
In the fourth quarter of 2016, Thai Smile has vowed to resume its suspended routes and THAI's terminated regional routes which are Da Nang, Kota Kinabalu, Luang Prabang and Mandalay. Also the airline has considered to launch new services to Hangzhou and Zhengzhou.
Rolls-Royce engine procurement
In January 2017 a four-year investigation by the UK's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) came to light. It determined that aircraft engine-maker Rolls-Royce had paid bribes to "...agents of the Thai state and employees of Thai Airways..." in order to secure orders for the Rolls-Royce T800 engine for its Boeing 777-200s. Rolls-Royce admitted to the charge and agreed to pay penalties. The illicit payments of US$36.38 million took place between 1991 and 2005. Bribes were paid in three tranches:
- 1 June 1991 – 30 June 1992: Rolls-Royce paid 660 million baht (US$18.8 million)
- 1 March 1992 – 31 March 1997: Rolls-Royce paid US$10.38 million
- 1 April 2004 – 28 February 2005: Rolls-Royce paid US$7.2 million
The government rejected calls for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to use his Section 44 powers to cut through red tape in the investigation of the Rolls-Royce bribery scandal. Response from the Thai government's National Anti-Corruption Commission to information provided by the SFO, is said to be "tepid" and "...could be more embarrassing than the scandal itself."
Thai Airways codeshares with the following airlines:
- Air Canada
- Air India
- Air Macau
- Air New Zealand
- All Nippon Airways
- Asiana Airlines
- Austrian Airlines
- Bangkok Airways
- Brussels Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- El Al
- EVA Air
- Gulf Air
- Japan Airlines
- Lao Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
- Oman Air
- Pakistan International Airlines
- Royal Brunei Airlines
- Scandinavian Airlines
- Swiss International Air Lines
- TAP Air Portugal
- Thai Smile
- Turkish Airlines
THAI is one of the few airlines with an in-flight uniform change policy. Female flight attendants on international routes are required to change from their corporate purple suits (for use outside the cabin) into traditional Thai dresses (as seen on the company's marketing campaigns) prior to the general boarding of passengers. They are also required to change back into the former prior to disembarkation. Consequently, traditional Thai dresses are only visible to the traveling public on-board THAI aircraft or in THAI's premium lounges in Bangkok. Cabin crew of nationalities other than Thai are not allowed to wear the traditional Thai attire. Male flight attendants also have on-board suit jackets that differ from those worn on the ground.
Political interference, corruption and abuse of authority have been persistent issues in THAI's management. Speaking at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, former president Piyasvasti Amranand, who had been abruptly dismissed in May 2012, cited THAI's procurement of A340-500s (three of which had since been grounded) as examples of mismanagement influenced by corruption and political meddling, resulting in operational losses.
The key trends for Thai Airways over recent years are shown below (figures by calendar year):
At the commencement of 2014, THAI was subject to a rumor that the company would declare bankruptcy in May 2014. Listed on the Thai stock exchange, the company is a state enterprise in which the finance ministry holds a stake of up to 51 percent. In a statement to the media, Chokchai Panyayong, the airways' senior executive vice-president and acting president, stated: "THAI has never once defaulted. Despite its loss in the third quarter of last year, the company still has high liquidity and has a clear plan for debt repayment." He further explained that the carrier's loss of 6.35 billion baht in the third quarter of last year was the result of the company's unsuccessful plan to attract more customers. THAI's financial loss for 2014 was reported to be at 15.6 billion baht (US$479 million), 3.6 billion baht higher than the previous year. THAI blamed declining tourist arrivals from North Asia owing to political unrest in Thailand during the year, but capacity figures from Flightglobal's Innovata Network Data service suggest that Europe was probably an even bigger drain on the bottom line during the year.
Lower fuel prices and a stronger Thai baht allowed THAI to report a profit of 4.54 billion baht (US$134 million) in the first quarter of 2015. The latest half-year results for 2015 have shown some improvement, but the airline is still in the red with 2015 losses projected to be 297 million baht, compared to 2014's massive loss of 10.9 billion baht.
As of May 2018, the mainline Thai Airways fleet (excluding Thai Smile) consists of the following aircraft:
|Airbus A330-300||14||—||—||36||263||299||1 more A/C to be retrofitted to C31Y263 with new regional business class.|
|Boeing 737-400||1||—||—||12||138||150||Used between Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi and Samui|
To be retired by September 2018
|Boeing 747-400||8||—||10||40||325||375||Older aircraft to be phased out by 2020. 2 to remain in service.|
Fleet development plans
- 2012: Phase-out of 11 aging aircraft, delivery of 12 government-approved aircraft.
- 2013–2017: Phase out of 35 aging aircraft, delivery of 11 aircraft that have already been approved, and acquisition of 33 new aircraft, including 26 next-generation wide-bodied aircraft and 20 Airbus A320s.
- 2018–2022: Phase out some Boeing 747-400s and some Boeing 777s and acquisition of 15 next-generation wide-bodied aircraft to replace them. 2 Boeing 747-400s (HS-TGF and HS-TGG) to remain in service.
- August 2017: Considering to purchase new narrow body aircraft in Samui route.
On 13 June 2011, THAI's Board of Directors announced it would purchase 15 aircraft and acquire the remaining 22 on operating leases. The purchased planes include 14 Boeing 777-300ERs, to be delivered in 2014 and 2015, four Airbus A350-900s (2016 and 2017). The leased planes include six 787-8s and two 787-9s from US lessor International Lease Finance (ILFC). The 8 series will be delivered in 2014 and 2015, while the 9 series will be delivered in 2017. In addition, THAI will lease six A350-900s from Aviation Lease and Finance, to be delivered in 2017, and two A350-900s from CIT Aerospace International, which will deliver the aircraft in 2016. The airline will also lease six A320-200s from RBS Aerospace International, to be delivered in 2012 and 2013. All the operating leases have terms of 12 years each.
On 20 January 2016 Thai Airways International PCL announced plans to postpone taking delivery of 14 planes for three years to reduce operating costs as the national airline restructured. The 14 planes include 12 Airbus 350s, two of which were due to be delivered in 2016, and two Boeing 787s.
On 12 February 2016 Thai Airways announced it will continue to ground 10 Airbus A340s it had not been able to sell because flying the four-engine planes is not cost-effective, even after fuel prices plunged more than 40 percent in the previous year. Besides trying to offload the planes, which were used previously for long-haul destinations such as Frankfurt, the money-losing airline has cut routes and sold assets to bolster its balance sheet and operations.
|Aircraft||Total||Year Introduced||Year Retired||Notes|
|ATR 42-320||2||1990||1998||All aircraft are currently stored|
|Airbus A300-600R||21||1985||2014||Three aircraft are currently stored|
|Airbus A340-500||4||2005||2012||One aircraft disposed to Royal Thai Air Force|
Three aircraft are stored
|Airbus A340-600||6||2005||2015||All aircraft are stored|
|Boeing 747-200B||6||1979||1997||Disposed to Air New Zealand, Atlas Air and China Airlines|
|Boeing 747-200SF||1||1996||1999||All aircraft are currently stored|
|Boeing 747-300||2||1987||2007||One aircraft is currently stored|
|Boeing 747-400BCF||2||2012||2015||All aircraft are currently stored|
|Boeing 777F||2||2010||2012||Operated by leasing from Southern Air|
|Douglas DC-8-60F||5||1977||1985||Cargo Aircraft|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-9-41||2||1970||1972|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30||6||1975||1987|
|McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30ER||3||1987||1998||Disposed to Northwest Airlines|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-11||4||1991||2005||Disposed to UPS Airlines|
|Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle III||5||1965||Unknown||Leased from Scandinavian Airlines|
Aircraft maintenance centers
THAI maintains three maintenance centers, at U-Tapao International Airport, Don Mueang International Airport, and Suvarnabhumi Airport. The centers service aircraft belonging to other airlines in addition to THAI aircraft.
THAI Technical is certified internationally by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Joint Aviation Authorities, the European Aviation Safety Agency Part-145 Maintenance Organisation, and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau for facilities at Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport. It has also received its Requalifier Identification Certificate from the United States Department of Transportation for its operations at U-Tapao International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport.
It is certified domestically by the Department of Civil Aviation (Thailand) for all three of its facilities in Thailand.
THAI initiated a program entitled "The Most Hygienic In-Cabin Environment Program" with an emphasis on air quality, surface cleanliness, and food safety. The program includes removal of all in-flight disposable materials after flights, sterilization and fumigation of all cabin equipment, and inspection of the air-circulation system. A special audit process is also carried out for the cleaning and sanitization of aircraft systems by a team of specialists. These measures are applied to the entire THAI fleet.
THAI was the first airline to install hospital-grade air-filter True HEPA, capable of intercepting up to 99.99 percent of dust particles and microorganisms on every flight. The World Health Organization awarded the airline a plaque for the implementation of its in-cabin management system in 2004. It was the first award of its kind to be presented to a private organization.
THAI Royal Silk or Royal Orchid lounges are available to THAI's premium passengers in various domestic and international destinations. THAI’s Royal Orchid Spa is located at Suvarnabhumi Airport, and was designed to serve Royal First Class and Royal Silk Class passengers with a full range of spa services at the airline's hub at Suvarnabhumi Airport Passengers traveling internationally from Bangkok in Royal Silk or Royal First classes are also entitled private security screening and passport control facilities, as well as free spa services at the Royal Orchid Spa, with different services available depending on the service class flown by the passenger. These services are not available to non-premium class passengers. THAI's first class ground services at Bangkok additionally provide private transportation services within the terminal to first class passengers.
Since 4 January 2011, THAI has been providing check-in services at the Bangkok City Air Terminal at Makkasan Station. Train services are provided by the Airport Rail Link (Bangkok). However, the Bangkok City Air Terminal has now ceased operations.
Royal First Class (First Class)
THAI's Royal First Class seats, manufactured by B/E Aerospace, were introduced with the arrival of the Airbus A340-600. These seats are also available on selected Boeing 747-400 aircraft. A new version of Royal First Class seating in a suite or enclosure configuration is available on THAI's Airbus A380 aircraft and select Boeing 747-400 aircraft since the 2012 refurbishment.
Royal Silk Class (Business Class)
THAI's Royal Silk Class seats have been installed on all THAI aircraft. The angled shell design seats have 150 to 160 cm (58 to 62 in) of pitch and a width of 51 to 55 cm (20 to 21.5 in). Prior to refurbishment, Royal Silk Class on some 747-400s were sold as premium economy seats on Scandinavian routes. Currently, Royal Silk seats on 777-300ERs and 777-200ERs are sold as premium economy class seats on Scandinavian routes and Moscow. A new set of Royal Silk seats are available on THAI's Airbus A380s, Boeing 777-300ERs, Boeing 787-8s, and Airbus A350-900s. After the delivery of the new 787-9s to THAI, the Zodiac Cirrus or Reverse Herringbone seats are now available on board the new aircraft.
THAI's Economy Class offers between 81 and 86 cm (32 and 34 in) seat pitch depending on the aircraft type. Personal screens with AVOD are present on the Airbus A380, Airbus A330-300, Airbus A350-900, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777 (200, 200ER, 300 and 300ER), Boeing 787 aircraft.
Royal Orchid Plus
Royal Orchid Plus is THAI's frequent flyer program. It has a membership of over two million people. There are two types of miles which can be accrued with a Royal Orchid Plus account: Eligible Qualifying Miles (EQM) on flights of THAI and its subsidiaries and codeshare and Star Alliance partners as well as Qualifying Miles (Q Miles) are the miles flown as well as the bonus miles earned from travel in particular classes of service on THAI and Star Alliance airlines. Royal Orchid Plus miles are earned based on the paid class of travel. There are four tiers in the Royal Orchid Plus program: Member, Silver, Gold and Platinum, depending on the Q Miles earned in one calendar year.
Accidents and incidents
- 30 June 1967: Thai Airways International Flight 601, a Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle III (HS-TGI, Chiraprapa), crashed into harbour waters while on approach to Kai Tak Airport in a tropical rainstorm. Twenty-four out of the 80 passengers and crew on board died.
- 9 July 1969: A Thai Airways International Sud Aviation Caravelle III (HS-TGK, Tepamart) landed with difficulty at Don Mueang International Airport during a thunderstorm; all 75 on board survived, but the aircraft was written off. The aircraft may have been caught by a downdraft.
- 10 May 1973: A Thai Airways International Douglas DC-8-33 (HS-TGU, Srisubhan) overran the runway on landing at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. All 100 passengers and 10 crew on board survived, but one person on the ground died.
- 26 October 1986: Thai Airways International Flight 620, an Airbus A300B4-600 (HS-TAE, Sukhothai) landed safely at Itami Airport, Japan after a grenade exploded on board at 33,000 feet (10,000 m) over Tosa Bay; all 239 passengers and crew on board survived. The aircraft was damaged by the explosion but was repaired and returned to service.
- 10 November 1990: Thai Airways International Flight 306, an Airbus A300-600 flying from Yangon to Don Mueang International Airport was the target of an attempted hijacking by individuals demanding to be taken to Kolkata.
- 31 July 1992: Thai Airways International Flight 311 from Bangkok, an Airbus A310-300 hit the side of a hill 37 kilometres (23 mi) north of Kathmandu while descending toward Tribhuvan International Airport. All 113 on board (99 passengers and 14 crew) died. The accident was caused by pilot error and loss of situation awareness in inclement weather.
- 22 October 1994: A Thai Airways International Airbus A300B4-100 (HS-THO) was written off after it was struck by an out-of-control Thai Airways MD-11 (HS-TMD, Phra Nakhon) that was performing an engine run-up at Bangkok International Airport.
- 11 December 1998: Thai Airways International Flight 261, an A310-200 (HS-TIA, Phitsanulok), bound for Surat Thani from Bangkok, crashed into a rice paddy about 3 km (2 mi) from Surat Thani airport during its third landing attempt in heavy rain; 101 of 146 on board died.
- 3 March 2001: Thai Airways International Flight 114, a Boeing 737-400 (HS-TDC, Narathiwat), bound for Chiang Mai from Bangkok, was destroyed by an explosion of the center wing tank resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel-air mixture in the tank while the aircraft was parked at the gate in Bangkok. The source of the ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty, but the most likely source was an explosion originating at the center wing tank pump as a result of running the pump in the presence of metal shavings and a fuel-air mixture, although an assassination attempt was theorized. One crew member died.
- 8 September 2013: Thai Airways International Flight 679, an Airbus A330-300, (HS-TEF, Song Dao), arriving from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN), China, had a runway excursion from runway 19L while landing at Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), with extensive damage to the airplane and the runway. All passengers and crew were successfully evacuated with no serious injuries. The plane has since been scrapped and is being renovated, by a private investor, as a children's learning center in the Sida District of Thailand.
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