Thai civil aviation authority fails to meet UN agency's safety standards

A security guard riding a bicycle inside the Technical Department of Thai Airways in Bangkok, Thailand.
A security guard riding a bicycle inside the Technical Department of Thai Airways in Bangkok, Thailand. PHOTO: EPA

BANGKOK - Thailand's civil aviation body is under scrutiny after the United Nations' aviation agency downgraded its safety ratings for failing to properly oversee airlines under its jurisdiction, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) said.

On its website, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) yesterday listed Thailand with a red flag, which means it has been downgraded to Category 2 from Category 1. This was because the Thai civil aviation authority's safety standards were "below the standards set", said a DCA official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject. "The red flag... means we have a problem with safety, in terms of aviation safety."

The downgrade could create a ripple effect and prompt global aviation agencies to re-evaluate the safety of Thai aviation facilities, the Economic Intelligence Centre at Thailand's Siam Commercial Bank said in a note this month.

In March, the ICAO warned of insufficient personnel inspection by the DCA and leniency in issuing air transport licences.

Japan and South Korea stopped Thailand-based airlines from flying charters and new routes to their countries because of safety concerns raised in late March during an audit of Thailand's aviation sector by the ICAO.

NokScoot, a joint venture between Nok Airlines and a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, and Thai AirAsia X were among Thailand's new crop of low-cost carriers hit by the flight bans imposed in March.

South-east Asian countries, however, do not have policies restricting the growth of airlines licensed by downgraded bodies, and short-haul routes are likely to face minimal impact.

An audit by the Montreal- based ICAO in January found that Thailand's aviation authority had a shortage of technical officers and issues with certification for the transportation of hazardous goods.

In a statement yesterday, flag carrier Thai Airways said it followed the highest safety standards in all operational areas and, despite the red flag, its safety practices conformed to standards set by international aviation agencies.

Thailand has struggled for almost a decade to meet ICAO standards, the country's transport minister said in April.

Earlier this month, the Thai Cabinet removed the civil aviation chief over the slow pace of improvement in aviation standards.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline 'Thai civil aviation authority fails to meet UN agency's safety standards'. Print Edition | Subscribe