Thailand Suspends International Flights by Some Thai Airlines

Thailand’s military government has suspended international flights of Thai airlines which did not received new operator certificates from the country’s aviation body, a spokesman said.

The measure will affect 12 airlines which together have a market share of only 2 percent and so will have little impact on the country’s tourism-dependent economy, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) said on Tuesday.

Thailand’s aviation industry has been under scrutiny after the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) downgraded the country in June 2015, giving it a red flag for missing a deadline to resolve significant safety concerns.

The government’s move comes ahead of an ICAO’s visit to Thailand next week.

“They want to see a strict measure. The government had to order CAAT to suspend operations of airlines which did not pass assessment,” government spokesman Sansern Kaewkumnerd told reporters.

The Thai military junta often invokes executive power, known as Article 44, to clear bureaucratic hurdles.

CAAT was set up in 2015 by the military government to tackle flaws in commercial aviation. It is tasked with auditing and recertifying Thai commercial airlines to make sure they are in line with ICAO standards.

Chula Sukmanop, director general of CAAT, told Reuters the suspension will affect 12 airlines, including Orient Thai Airlines and Thai Vietjet Air.

While Orient Thai is now an unsignificant player with a handful of weekly flights to Korea and China, while Thai Vietjet does not seem to be exposed-n except maybe in terms of image. The carrier has a network of five destinations out of Bangkok including flights to Chiang Mai and Phuket as well as routes to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Haiphong.

The carrier flies also from Phuket to Chiang Rai. In a statement, the airline’s management announced that Thai Vietjet operates normally its domestic network. The international services between Bangkok and Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phong are currently operated by parent carrier Vietjet. Thai Vietjet will announce its international flights operation as soon as it completes recertification. The carrier is undergoing Air Operator Certificate (AOC) recertification process and expects to obtain new AOC in October 2017 for international flights.

“It’s not that these airlines failed the assessment, but the assessment has not been completed yet,” Chula Sukmanop said.

“They can resume their flights as soon as they pass the assessment,” he said, adding that the two airlines are expected to resume their international flights as soon as next month.

The suspension is expected to be lifted for the other airlines by Jan. 31, 2018, Chula said.

(Source: Reuters)