Safety downgrade heavy blow for Thai aviation industry

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Thai Airways hangarThe downgrading of Thailand’s aviation safety ratings by US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on December 1 is feared to cause big headwinds for the country’s aviation industry, especially if the European counterpart on aviation safety presents similar findings on December 15.

Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation was taken to a category 2 from 1 by the FAA because it “did not comply” with FAA standards, the civil body said. As a result, Thailand-based airlines are prevented from launching or expanding services to the US, either directly or as code-share partners. In July the department was given 65 days by the FAA to take make improvements over what the it said were critical omissions in safety standards.

While currently none of the country’s airlines flies to the US – Thai Airways ceased operations to its only US destination of Los Angeles earlier this year for economic reasons -, the lower safety rating could hurt the image of a country with a thriving tourism industry and a long-established commercial air travel sector that handles scores of domestic and international routes. Bangkok is a regional airline hub that has forecast some 30 million tourist arrivals this year.

Furthermore, continued safety flaws could affect flights of Thai airlines to Europe. On December 15, the European Aviation Safety Agency will announce the results of its audit in Bangkok held in November and – in the worst case and to another huge embarrassment for Thailand – could present findings similar to the FAA. This would affect Thai flights to all European destinations.

The FAA did not specify where Thailand had failed, but said its category 2 rating would apply to an aviation authority that “is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures”.

It follows a series of red flags and concerns that have put Thailand’s air safety standards under the microscope this year.

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Authority, a division of the United Nations, downgraded the kingdom to category 2 from category 1 in June. Its January audit found Thailand had a shortage of technical officers and certification problems in transporting hazardous goods.

South Korea, Japan and China had previously stopped Thai-based airlines from flying charters and new routes over safety worries that emerged in an international audit. Those restrictions have since been relaxed.

Junta leader and Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha said in a first reaction that he accepted the fact that the FAA decision will affect confidence in the government. He ordered officials to “quickly rectify” the problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, responsible for economic affairs, indicated that the problems centered “on the quality of work by aviation personnel,” an issue which must be solved quickly, he said.

He did not see any direct business impact from the downgrade by the US because Thai Airways isn’t serving US destinations. But he admitted that it affected confidence in Thai aviation standards.

“There is an impact in terms of sentiment. We do need to meet international standards,” he said.

 

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

The downgrading of Thailand’s aviation safety ratings by US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on December 1 is feared to cause big headwinds for the country’s aviation industry, especially if the European counterpart on aviation safety presents similar findings on December 15.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thai Airways hangarThe downgrading of Thailand’s aviation safety ratings by US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on December 1 is feared to cause big headwinds for the country’s aviation industry, especially if the European counterpart on aviation safety presents similar findings on December 15.

Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation was taken to a category 2 from 1 by the FAA because it “did not comply” with FAA standards, the civil body said. As a result, Thailand-based airlines are prevented from launching or expanding services to the US, either directly or as code-share partners. In July the department was given 65 days by the FAA to take make improvements over what the it said were critical omissions in safety standards.

While currently none of the country’s airlines flies to the US – Thai Airways ceased operations to its only US destination of Los Angeles earlier this year for economic reasons -, the lower safety rating could hurt the image of a country with a thriving tourism industry and a long-established commercial air travel sector that handles scores of domestic and international routes. Bangkok is a regional airline hub that has forecast some 30 million tourist arrivals this year.

Furthermore, continued safety flaws could affect flights of Thai airlines to Europe. On December 15, the European Aviation Safety Agency will announce the results of its audit in Bangkok held in November and – in the worst case and to another huge embarrassment for Thailand – could present findings similar to the FAA. This would affect Thai flights to all European destinations.

The FAA did not specify where Thailand had failed, but said its category 2 rating would apply to an aviation authority that “is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures”.

It follows a series of red flags and concerns that have put Thailand’s air safety standards under the microscope this year.

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Authority, a division of the United Nations, downgraded the kingdom to category 2 from category 1 in June. Its January audit found Thailand had a shortage of technical officers and certification problems in transporting hazardous goods.

South Korea, Japan and China had previously stopped Thai-based airlines from flying charters and new routes over safety worries that emerged in an international audit. Those restrictions have since been relaxed.

Junta leader and Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha said in a first reaction that he accepted the fact that the FAA decision will affect confidence in the government. He ordered officials to “quickly rectify” the problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, responsible for economic affairs, indicated that the problems centered “on the quality of work by aviation personnel,” an issue which must be solved quickly, he said.

He did not see any direct business impact from the downgrade by the US because Thai Airways isn’t serving US destinations. But he admitted that it affected confidence in Thai aviation standards.

“There is an impact in terms of sentiment. We do need to meet international standards,” he said.

 

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