Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha acted swiftly yesterday after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Thailand’s aviation safety rating. Prayuth ordered officials to “resolve the issue” and improve aviation safety standards.
The lower safety rating bans Thai carriers from launching or expanding in the US. As no Thai airline flies direct to the US, the order will have little effect – but it also bans US carriers from sharing codes with Thailand-registered carriers. The order reflects poorly on aviation administration in Thailand and may have some impact on Thailand’s tourism industry.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced this morning that Thailand’s aviation safety rating has been downgraded from Category 1 to Category 2. This means that the FAA has determined that Thailand does not meet international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, referred to as ICAO. As a result of the downgrade, Thai airlines can continue existing service to the US but no new service will be allowed. In addition, US airlines will not be able to code share with Thai airlines.
According to the FAA’s statement, the category 2 rating means “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.” In addition, the FAA indicated that Thailand has had a history of ups and downs with its aviation safety ratings. It was initially assessed a Category 2 in 1996, which was upgraded to Category 1 in 1997. Reassessments in 2001 and 2008 continued the Category 1 rating. However, an FAA reassessment in July 2015 found that Thailand did not meet international standards.
THAI International, the airline, has made it clear in the past that the problem with ICAO relates to the administration of aviation in Thailand, not to itself.
In June, THAI reassured the travelling public that it operates with the highest safety standards in all operational areas.
While the FAA was not specific, it did say the rating downgrade meant Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) was “deficient in one or more areas”.
Thailand has responded by ordering its DCA to increase its workforce, lift performance and match international standards.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told reporters yesterday that Thailand would by next August complete a recertification process for 28 airlines flying international routes. That would help improve its standing in future audits.
Written by Peter Needham