Flight safety in Thailand: Sunday solutions?

The direction of the Thai Civil Aviation (DCA) has promised to present to ICAO by Sunday a catalog of measures to enhance flight safety, particularly on the allocation of operations certificates to new airlines . The operators of the country such as Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia X or NokScoot trying somehow to react to a problem that does not concern them directly.

The security problems with the air operator certification procedures (AOC) were among the reported breaches March 20, 2015 by the International Organization of Civil Aviation, following an audit conducted in January. And it will give its opinion on 18 June on the corrections made by Thailand, the main threat of the country being a demotion in Category 2, which would lead to a flight ban to Europe, the US or Japan, or to other countries concerned about security. The Minister of Transport of Thailand Prajin Juntong promised to unveil Sunday, May 10, 2015 a first series of measures, first of all the lack of qualified personnel to the DCA, able to seriously inspect the airlines, their planes and their pilots ( their number is stable for ten years while the number of flights has doubled) and the transport of hazardous materials (Thai Smile, Thai VietJetAir, Jet Asia Airways, Orient Thai and three small operators had been found wanting). Experts from Singapore are expected to conduct training for two weeks to upgrade to the DCA employees, but the effective-in will take time to be absorbed. The Prime Minister and leader of the coup last year Prayut Chan-O-Cha has even decided to invoke Article 44 of the interim constitution, bypassing the National Assembly of history – and rein in any bureaucratic resistance to changes ahead.

The restructuring of the DCA will probably take a few more weeks, but the fixed principles seem to correspond to the ICAO critical: the civil aviation regulator will be divided into three separate entities in charge of regulation, airports and rescue services. Again the use of Article 44 could possibly end all resistance – it has not been invoked – but also instantly provide the necessary budgets. The three new entities should be operational in four months at most, promised the Minister of Transport.

The announcement of the ICAO last month had an instant effect in the region, probably scalded by the slot allocation problems in Indonesia revealed after the crash of the low cost Indonesia AirAsia (162 dead December 28, 2014 ). Japan, South Korea and China had immediately blocked all operated by charter flights Thai companies, and forbids adding additional frequencies. Prior to relent a little, some 150,000 passengers on stranded in airports foul air. Other countries had had more “political” reactions, such as Singapore or the European Union that have increased inspections on aircraft Thais, especially Thai Airways; again, the memory of accidents was probably too keen remembered for the authorities to risking accusations of inaction. The boss of IATA Tony Tyler repositioned the problems of Thailand at fair value: it is “unfair to penalize airlines for breaches of the Thai control, which they are not responsible”, except of course for transport hazardous materials – recalling that Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways (the latter was not affected by the bans) are both members of IATA and the level of safety requirements imposed by the association. The national carrier, Thai AirAsia X, NokScoot, Asia Atlantic Airlines, Jet Asia Airways and Asian Air finally saw their flight restrictions “softened” by Asian regulators, for limited periods of time (up to May 31, in the majority of cases). Further inspections of the country’s companies are supposed to be conducted from 29 May with the backing of foreign experts. The first “visited” are unsurprisingly Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia and NokScoot; 28 other carriers registered in Thailand will have to wait.

Waiting for the verdict, the six carriers affected by the flight restrictions adapt somehow. One that has the most to lose if ICAO is not convinced is unquestionably Thai Airways, which celebrates its 75th anniversary undergoing restructuring (it will be recalled that it has already reduced its frequencies to London and Frankfurt, and Madrid to remove the return). Besides the loss of face caused by tighter controls of its aircraft at certain airports, it expects to see its subsidiary Thai Smile to have to reapply international flying rights to regulators of countries served. Founded in 2012, Thai Smile had achieved last year its own AOC and its code WE, but her mother-house continued to use it in code TG on certain routes, for example between Bangkok and Vientiane (which provoked a complaint Laos). The new president of Thai Airways Charamporn Jotikasthira affirmed his determination to “keep the company at the highest level of security,” whatever the ICAO verdict, but also to awaken the mammoth (overstaffing, lack of marketing strategy, aging fleet … and a loss of $ 523 million in 2014); but its action could be undermined by former executives, who accused him of recruiting international experts, namely Bain & Company, one of whose leaders worked for Temasek – owner of Singapore Airlines, the large concurrent; an accusation already heard during abortive marriage with Tiger Airways, Learn more about marketing automation definition here…

The low cost long haul Thai AirAsia X was inaugurated on May 1, a new daily service between Bangkok-Don Mueang and Sapporo New Chitose. Can according to Japanese authorities, but they agreed that the A330-300 TAAX to be replaced for a month with that of its parent Malaysian, AirAsia X. This is the plane of the latter which now operates this road under its own code D7; other lines of Thai AirAsia X, to Tokyo-Narita and twice daily to Osaka-Kansai and Seoul-Incheon every day, are not affected by the restrictions.

NokScoot, new company born of marriage between Scoot and Nok Air, low cost subsidiaries are Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways, was inaugurated Wednesday its first route between Bangkok-Don Mueang and Singapore-Changi. Impossible then, but she will try his luck again on 20 May, with a daily rotation Boeing 777-200ER leased from Singapore Airlines (24 seats in Premium, 391 in Economy). The future route to Nanjing in China, expected next month, is postponed indefinitely.

Jet Asia Airways, which offers regular flights to Jakarta, Tokyo and Jeddah more charter flights, and plans to connect Phuket in Seoul and three Chinese cities, said it was “determined to clear his image”: even if it is nothing criticized, she asked ICAO to be subject to IOSA audit, reference in the field. Thai Lion Air had done the same thing late last year, and was only slightly affected by recent events: the network is mainly inside.

Asia Atlantic Airlines, Thai-Japanese new charter operator had permission to perform last month some flights in April and May to Japan, having sent new documents to JCAB.

Although ICAO is satisfied with the commitments made by Thailand to address the flaws in its air safety, the horizon is not led so far: the American FAA should come to realize the magnitude of problems the AOC in July, and ICAO is preparing for 2016 or 2017 another – that of international airports in the country is controlled by Airports of Thailand (Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Hat Yai) either by the DCA (Krabi, Surat Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Udon Thai). Cambodia is the next country in the region that will be an ICAO audit, a priori in November.

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