Hundreds of people lured by cheap tickets offered by Thai Regional Airlines (TRA) have been left in limbo after the carrier's launch of regular services this week was aborted due to the lack of an airline operating licence.
The Office of the Consumer Protection Board (OCPB) and the Civil Aviation Department have summoned TRA executives for a meeting next Thursday on how to deal with a case that has reportedly affected more than 500 consumers.
OCPB officials said they have not filed charges against the Thai-owned airline for deceiving consumers, as amicable solutions such as booking refunds or finding seats on other airlines could be forthcoming for affected passengers.
TRA has posted on its website that its services are "temporarily unavailable" from Dec 25 to March 31, as its application for a licence to operate scheduled flights is still awaiting consideration by the Civil Aviation Department.
The airline said its launch of regular service, initially from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Khon Kaen, will take place on April 1.
A senior Civil Aviation Department official yesterday told the Bangkok Post that TRA had jumped the gun by selling tickets well ahead of securing a licence.
Authorities need more time to consider TRA's application, which was submitted in September, as issues including the airline's safety and aircraft maintenance had cropped up, said the official.
TRA had hoped to get the permit early this month so that it could launch scheduled flights during the festive season.
Like other start-up airlines in Thailand, TRA was repeatedly warned by the department not to start selling tickets before the permit was granted - a practice that TRA executives have denied.
But TRA started to offer 5,000 one-way flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Phuket for only 1,000 baht on its website as far back as October.
A recent case involving an alleged breach of contract between start-up Thai airline PC Air and passengers called into question the accountability of operators and whether carriers are properly regulated by authorities.
TRA executives could not be reached for comment yesterday, and there was no answer from its call centre or office.
The Civil Aviation Department said TRA has sought to change its licence from being an air taxi and charter airline using small aircraft to an operator of scheduled flights.
It signed a letter of intent with Amico Private Wealth Ltd, a London-based firm with a "financial intermediation" service, to make available two leased Airbus 320 narrow-body jets to kick off its scheduled operations.
TRA was granted an air taxi licence in January 2011 and operates two Piper PA-31-350 Navajo Chieftains, the US-made twin-engine propeller aircraft capable of carrying 8-10 people.
TRA has told the department it has raised its registered capital to 400 million baht, twice the amount required.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business