THAI Airways forced to cut its global network in a big way – immediately!

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BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – The world became smaller for airlines from Thailand. Will US and EU authorities prevent airlines registered in Thailand from entering their airspace?

BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – The world became smaller for airlines from Thailand. Will US and EU authorities prevent airlines registered in Thailand from entering their airspace? There is now a good chance this may happen. All of this has nothing to do with Star Alliance Member Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Air Asia Thailand or any other specific airline in Thailand.

It has to do with a Thai government agency, the Thailand Department of Civil Aviation and their rating for safety.

Thailand last week joined 12 other nations when it was found to be deficient in managing its airline. Other airlines in this category are Angola, Botswana, Djibouti, Eritrea, Georgia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malawi, Nepal, Sierra Leone, and Uruguay. There are 187 ICAO members in all.

After a 90-day deadline to fix woes at the Thailand Department of Civil Aviation and come up with a plan to strengthen safety measures, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – the UN’s authoritative agency for all technical rules and elements linked to air transport – decided to downgrade the Thailand Civil Aviation Department from category 1 to category 2.

Despite promises to quickly tackle its problems after a warning sent to Thailand last March, ICAO finally decided to act.

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This action by the ICAO is already having consequences for Thailand’s carriers. Any new flight or charter service is now banned to China, South Korea, and Japan while new carrier, NokScoot, has been forced to review its launching date. The airline was due to start flying into Japan from May 1 and is for now forced to fly only between Bangkok and Singapore. Long-haul carrier, Thai AirAsia X, also announced it will stop flying from Bangkok to Sapporo from August 1. The airline got the authorization to fly the route thanks to the leasing of an aircraft and crew from its sister company in Malaysia. However, it remains a costly solution, and the airline will only resume its service once the situation has been cleared with the ICAO.

This may come, however, before the end of October. After firing the Chief of the Civil Aviation Department last month, Thailand’s transport minister announced training courses for new officers in civil aviation as well as an in-depth inspection of the 28 Thai-based carriers for recertification. This program will be activated from July and will last until October. At that time, Thai carriers might be cleared.

Although Thai carriers are now not allowed to add more flights to China, Japan, and Korea, they can continue to develop and open new routes within ASEAN. Thailand’s Transport Minister explained a few months back about a new organization that would supervise policy and regulate the airline licensing process. The DCA would become a new body restricted to administering airlines and airports. However, the project still needs to materialize.

The official downgrading of Thailand could cause American and European authorities to look at Thailand’s aviation and impose their own restrictions on air carriers from the kingdom.

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Editor in chief for eTurboNew is Linda Hohnholz. She is based in the eTN HQ in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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