S44 grounds 12 airlines for re-certification

The Section 44 order bars a dozen Thai airlines from international flights, including two well-known airlines. (File photos)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha late Tuesday signed a Section 44 order to suspend international flights by a dozen small airlines that had not received new operator certificates from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), a spokesman said.

The measure affected 12 airlines, although together they account for just 2% of the market, and so will have little impact on the country's tourism-dependent economy.

And there is likely to be confusion. The airlines cited in the Section 44 order can still fly inside Thailand. The order bars them from any international flights.

The CAAT director general, Chula Sukmanop, acknowledged the aviation industry has been under scrutiny since the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) downgraded Thailand in June 2015, giving it a red flag for missing a deadline to resolve significant safety concerns.

The government's move comes ahead of a top-level visit to Thailand next week by Icao to conduct an airline audit, a follow-up to the 2015 decision.

"They want to see a strict measure", said government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkumnerd.

"The government had to order CAAT to suspend operations of airlines which did not pass assessment," he told reporters.

After the Icao audit and inspection, the CAAT will "speed up" the process of granting the Recertification of Air Operator Certificates (Re-AOC) required by the ICAO for the airlines - by next Jan 31, said Lt Gen Sansern.

The two best-known airlines on the suspension list are veteran Orient Thai Airlines and rising budget firm Thai Vietjet Air. The two airlines were not immediately available for comment

The others are Mjets, K-Mile, Jet Asia Airways, AC Aviation, Siam Land Flying, Asia Atlantic, VIP Jets, HS Aviation, Advance Aviation and Skyview Airways.

CAAT was established by the junta in 2015 to tackle perceived flaws in commercial aviation. It is tasked with auditing and re-certifying Thai commercial airlines to make sure they are in line with Icao standards.

Mr Chula, the CAAT chief, was quoted by Reuters as clarifying the suspension order.

"It's not that they failed the assessment, but the assessment has not been completed yet," Chula 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.


EARLIER REPORT

The government has suspended international flights by airlines that have 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% 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.

The aviation industry has been under scrutiny after the UN'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 the assessment," government spokesman Sansern Kaewkumnerd told reporters.

The junta often invokes executive power, known as Section 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.

"It's not that they failed the assessment, but the assessment has not been completed yet," Mr Chula 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, Mr Chula said.

Back to top