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More Countries Join Japan, Korea In Restricting Thai Carriers

The “dominoes” that Transport Minister Prajin Juntong worried would begin falling over a global safety warning about Thailand’s aviation industry have indeed begun to tumble, with China and South Korea now banning new Thai-registered flights and Singapore imposing strict inspections.

The moves by China and South Korea follow a ban by Japan on new flights and aircraft changes by Thai-registered airlines after the International Civil Aviation Organization expressed ” significant safety concerns” about the operational standards of the Department of Civil Aviation.

At least three countries — Japan, China and Singapore — have now subjected aircraft operated by Thai airlines to exhaustive inspections at their airports, industry executives with knowledge of the matter told the Bangkok Post on Monday.

ACM Prajin earlier today worried aloud that, after Japan, other countries would begin to impose flight bans, likening them to “dominoes.”

“Dominoes start to fall and we must think what to do to delay the interval between dominoes to cushion the impact,” ACM Prajin said.

Sources said it is likely more countries will take similar or more-serious action against Thai airlines.

“It’s not beyond imagination to think that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and EU (European Union) will soon come out with some action, including a disastrous blacklisting,” a veteran airline executive said on condition of anonymity.

Thai carriers could face a similar fate to that of Indonesia in 2007 when the European Union barred all 51 Indonesian airlines from landing on its runways, citing lax safety standards. The US and EU also banned Philippine carriers from 2010 to 2013.

If blacklisting actually took place, the US and EU carriers would also have to immediately end code shares with Thai carriers.

ICAO, a UN agency, informed governments around the world about its designation of Thailand as a “significant safety concern” on March 20.

ICAO’s designation came after it determined that the “corrective action plan” submitted by the Department of Civil Aviation on March 2 to address the issues raised by ICAO were “needing revision’, ACM Prajin said this weekend.

The designation is seen as a possible prelude to ICAO’s downgrading of the kingdom from the so-called Category 1 to Category 2 as result of its January audit, which reportedly showed that the DCA was able to meet only 21 out of 100 ICAO requisites.

The audit covered a broad range of areas relevant to aviation safety and airline operations, but was intended to assess the performance and expertise of the civil aviation authority and not of individual airlines. The last similar audit was in 2005.

Some of the key areas considered lacking are personnel licensing and training, airworthiness assessment and certification, accident investigation and airline operations oversight and licensing.

DCA was given a 90-day grace period, which has yet to expire, to comply with the ICAO’s standards.

Executives of affected Thai airlines on Monday expressed disappointment over the failure of the Thai team, led by DCA director-general Somchai Piputvat, to secure leniency from Japan Civil Aviation Bureau officials. Mr Somchai met the Japanese officials in Tokyo on Friday.

Top executives of NokScoot, Thai AirAsia X, Nok Air and Thai AirAsia on Monday resolved to tackle restrictions by Japan and South Korea by themselves.

Patee Sarasin, Nok Air chief executive and director of NokScoot, described the remedial action taken by Thai authorities so far as “too late and too slow”.

“We cannot afford to wait and we have to do something feasible and fast,” he told the Bangkok Post.

The carriers, possibly include Thai Airways International, are due to meet on Tuesday to formulate a strategic plan to solve the problems that prevent them from launching both new charter and scheduled flights to Japan and South Korea.

As far as NokScoot, a joint venture between Thai budget airline Nok Air and Singapore’s Scoot long-haul, low-cost carrier, their executives will be flying shortly to Tokyo and Seoul to seek relaxation of the restrictions.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore has just issued an official notification that it will be performing inspections of Thai aircraft operating into Singapore starting on Apr 1.

CAAS gave a long list of inspections, not only the exterior and interior condition of the aircraft. It will check all certificates, crew licences and technical log books.


Source: Bangkok Post