UN aviation body says Thailand lax on overseeing airlines
BANGKOK: Thailand has failed to meet a deadline for addressing safety concerns about its oversight of its airlines and has been added to a list of nations whose aviation authorities fall short of international standards, the UN body regulating world air traffic said Friday.
A spokesman for the International Civil Aviation Organization, Anthony Philbin, said in an email from the group's headquarters in Montreal that its main concern focused on Thailand's ability to conduct air operator certifications.
ICAO audited Thailand in January — for the first time since 2005 — and in March gave Thai authorities 90 days to rectify shortcomings it had found. Thailand failed to meet the deadline and joined 12 other nations found deficient in managing their airlines: Angola, Botswana, Djibouti, Eritrea, Georgia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malawi, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Uruguay. There are 187 ICAO members in all.
Thailand's preliminary listing in March caused disruption to the country's airline industry, as the ICAO evaluation led Japan, South Korea and China to temporarily block Thai airlines from adding more flights or otherwise modifying their schedules.
Philbin and Thai transport officials stressed that the new listing does not amount to a fresh downgrading of Thai aviation, and said the country's aviation authorities are working hard to correct the problems. The ICAO spokesman said Thai Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith traveled to ICAO headquarters recently "to stress his country's commitment, at the highest level, to continue to address this matter in their civil aviation authority, and we continue to work collaboratively with Thailand to help it achieve that goal."
However, the issue is likely to continue to draw attention from aviation bodies in Europe and the United States, whose assessments are influential worldwide, and could lead to new restrictions on international flights by Thai airlines.
Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said at a news conference Friday that air operator certifications and permission to ship hazardous goods were the major issues cited by ICAO.
He said the European Civil Aviation Conference has been evaluating Thailand's aviation measures and is expected to announce on June 25 its policy on Thai airlines.