Thai aviation authorities ready plan to meet ICAO concerns

4The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand is poised to implement a new plan to expedite inspections and approvals where appropriate for 28 Thailand-based airlines to meet the safety concerns of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as the government’s economic czar said last week that national carrier THAI Airways International has turned a corner and will move towards profitability.

The plan developed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) is scheduled for Cabinet consideration this week and is expected to receive a quick green light. The government established CAAT last year to address and rectify any and all safety concerns raised by the ICAO. The Organization issued a “red flag” on airline safety in Thailand in June 2015 because the growth of the aviation sector in the Kingdom had long ago outstripped the ability of domestic authorities to regulate it. Successive governments could not provide adequate funding to expand trainings and the numbers of qualified inspectors.

CAAT Director Chula Sukmanop said the plan submitted to the Cabinet has already been reviewed by a command center to tackle aviation safety concerns set up on the orders of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha after the ICAO warning. Deputy Director Amphawan Wannako said that the government would most likely seek a delay of a few months in the next ICAO inspection, asking for it to be postponed until early 2017. More time was needed to make sure Thailand’s aviation auditors were qualified, she said.

The auditors need to complete their training by the end of June in order to conduct and finish a review of all Thai-registered airlines and re-certify them by November, she said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said that storm clouds are starting to clear for loss-ridden THAI Airways International, which is partially owned by the government. The airline has been formulating a rehabilitation plan that he said would be submitted to the State Enterprise Policy Commission within two months.

Somkid urged executives at the national carrier to concentrate on improving operating efficiency, and to prepare an aggressive five-year strategy to create growth. He encouraged the airline to expand its regional focus as travel within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is bound to increase with the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community.

Minister of Finance Apisak Tantivorawong said that THAI should be able to return to profitability by the end of this year if it achieves the goals it has laid out in its rehabilitation plan.

Also in domestic aviation news, the first test flights touched down last week at the new international terminal at Phuket airport, one of the most popular and busiest destinations in the Kingdom. The new terminal will officially open on June 1.