CAAT approves flight cancellations
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has approved airlines' decisions to scale back flights or stop flying altogether due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but told carriers to compensate customers.
Chula Sukmanop, CAAT director-general, said the approval was given after the authority met Thai carriers on Tuesday, namely Thai Airways International (THAI), Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, Thai AirAsia X, Thai Lion Air, Nok Air, Nok Scoot and Thai Vietjet Air.
The airlines said the outbreak was responsible for a steep plunge in passenger numbers nationwide. Mr Chula said the CAAT had predicted at the start that a pandemic would bring tremendous losses to the airline industry. Back then, the agency estimated that almost 10,000 flights around the country would be suspended, leaving a void of more than 3 million passengers in the first quarter.
Thai AirAsia (TAA) and Bangkok Airways have temporarily cancelled all international flights but will continue operating domestic routes. TAA and Bangkok Airways are the second and third carriers in Thailand to introduce mass flight cancellations. TAA said it hopes to resume international flights on April 25, while Bangkok Airways announced its suspension will be in effect "until further notice".
Thai Lion Air (TLA) was the first to suspend operations after grounding all its 17 aircraft last week. The airline expects to resume services on May 1. This week, THAI announced it will suspend all international flights and shut down its overseas offices.
The carrier has cancelled all Asia-Pacific flights (with the exception of Cambodia) starting from today and will drop all Europe routes from April 1 until May 30. Mr Chula said if the Covid-19 pandemic is not contained the prospect of airlines returning to full-scale operation during Europe's summer months is dim.
An IATA analysis says annual passenger revenues worldwide will fall by US$252 billion (about 8.27 trillion baht) if severe travel restrictions remain in place for three months.