Thai-based airlines in for turbulence after bans on charter flights

Thai Airways International is among the airlines expected to be hit after China, Japan and South Korea refused them permission for charter flights.
Thai Airways International is among the airlines expected to be hit after China, Japan and South Korea refused them permission for charter flights.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BANGKOK - A top Thai aviation official warned yesterday of an "unimaginable impact" on revenues and passenger numbers of Thailand-based airlines after three major Asian destination countries refused them permission for charter flights.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha has vowed speedy action to get the bans lifted after China, Japan and South Korea stopped Thailand-based airlines from flying new charters and routes due to safety concerns highlighted by an international audit.

The head of Thailand's Department of Civil Aviation, Mr Somchai Piputwat, said nearly 120,000 passengers wanting to travel to Japan alone would be affected in the next two months - a busy time for Thai travellers - because of the new restrictions. "If we can't solve the problems (with the audit) in the next eight months, the impact will be unimaginable," Mr Somchai told reporters.

Thailand's ruling junta will allow the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) to inspect operations of the Thai aviation supervisory agency to help restore international confidence, Prime Minister Prayut said. "First we will let Easa come in to create confidence," he told reporters, adding that the military government had set up committees to try and end the restrictions within a month.

Some 77,000 passengers who have booked flights to Japan for April and May with Thailand's largest long-haul, low-cost carrier Thai AirAsiaX will be affected by the ban, Mr Somchai said.

In addition, some 27,000 passengers of NokScoot, 10,000 with Thai Airways International and 3,600 at Asia Atlantic Airline will be affected.

Long-haul, low-cost carrier NokScoot expects to have lost about 400 million baht (S$17 million) in revenue so far this year after the Japanese authorities refused permission for 44 charter flights, the firm's chief executive Piya Yodmani said.

NokScoot will need to transfer about 20,000 passengers with flights to Osaka and Tokyo to Thai Airways in the period from March 30 to May 30, Mr Piya said.

NokScoot, a joint venture between Nok Airlines and the Singapore Airlines subsidiary Scoot, has also delayed plans to launch new flights to South Korea, he said.

REUTERS