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ICAO concerns hit Thai airlines at bad time for tourism

April 1, 2015 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Thai budget carriers, and to a lesser extent Thai International, have seen expansion plans hampered by bans stemming from safety concerns revealed during an audit of Thailand’s civil aviation authority by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

China, South Korea and Japan are among countries stopping Thai carriers from flying charters and opening new routes, latest reports say.

Prospects have been looking up for Thai airlines after a depressed 2014, when political protests and unrest in Bangkok cut the number of tourists visiting Thailand.

Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Somchai Piputwat told Reuters news service that about 100 charter flights to Japan had been cancelled. About 30,000 tickets had been either refunded or modified.

The hitch comes at a bad time – before the peak travel season around the Thai new year in April.

Concern is mounting that other countries, including the USA, will take similar action against Thai carriers, especially if ICAO downgrades Thailand from Category 1 to Category 2, the Voice of America (VoA) news service reported yesterday.

The VoA cited a US government source, who spoke anonymously, as saying the ICAO report would probably trigger an audit of Thailand’s aviation sector by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). He called the ICAO audit results a “real red flag for the FAA”.

According to the VoA, shortcomings on safety regulations for low-cost and charter carriers are of most concern, including certifications for air operations and the transport of hazardous goods.

“On professional pilots’ forums on the Internet, comments about the ICAO safety warning have prompted comments by industry workers alleging government inspectors were bribed with cash and massages to favourably sign off on paperwork,” the VoA said.

Thai Transport Minister Air Chief Marshall Prajin Juntong told reporters on Monday Thailand had striven for a decade to comply with ICAO standards.

A Reuters report named other airlines affected by the ban as Thai Airways and long-haul, low-cost carrier Thai AirAsiaX.

Authorities in China are said to have knocked back expansion plans by budget carrier Orient Thai Airlines and charter flight operator Sky View. South Korea and Japan are said to have rejected plans by Thai charter airline Asia Atlantic Airlines.

Another airline said to be affected by the ban was long-haul, low-cost carrier Thai AirAsiaX.

Thailand is said to be working to rectify concerns raised in the audit.

Written by : Peter Needham

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