Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, but Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said on Friday that a move away from the “open sky” policy was needed to ensure aviation safety. Staff were now working on the full details, the Bangkok Post reported.
Our sky cannot provide space for more flights,” the paper quoted Prajin as saying.
“To ensure safety and prevent aircraft collisions, we must limit the use of our sky, manage flight schedules and re-organise flights to times of light traffic to prevent congestion in some periods. The problem must be solved quickly.”
Prajin said immediate changes were necessary because International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) representatives are due in Thailand again next year as part of ICAO’s universal security audit program.
Thai 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 ICAO. As a result, Thailand is anxious to meet any ICAO requirement.
Prajin said 800 flights were using Suvarnabhumi airport daily, whereas it was designed to handle only 600.
He is reportedly drafting an “Open Sky with Conditions” policy which will set limits on the number of flight arrivals, taking into account the ability of airports to handle the flights. It will be ready by September.
Prajin said Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport was designed to handle 45 million passengers annually and was already handling 50 million.
Publication of the plan in the Bangkok Post drew immediate criticism from readers.
“Try telling Heathrow or JFK you only have to deal with 400 arrivals and 400 departures a day and you can stay open 20 hours a day,” one reader wrote. “Sounds like we are trying to get around some safety issues.”
Another wrote: “Tourism is down by 50% (or more), small hotels are offered at bargain prices, how can arrivals go up? Protectionism!”
Written by Peter Needham