Govt won't let THAI go under: Somkid
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak on Monday said the government will not allow ailing flag-carrier Thai Airways International Plc (THAI) to collapse and dismissed rumours of impending lay-offs as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Somkid said the government is ready to help the national airline, which was already beset with financial difficulties even before the pandemic began. While he insisted that THAI won't lay off any employees, the deputy premier urged the THAI board to come up with a business plan which proves that the company can still grow and expand after the crisis.
"All rumours [about a lay-off] aren't true. News involving THAI that didn't come from the Finance Ministry should be considered false," he said.
THAI employs about 20,000 staff, while its sister company Wingspan, which offers aviation-related services, has about 4,900 workers on its payroll.
The deputy premier said the Finance Ministry wants to see a proposal which clearly outlines how THAI plans to review its management structure and business strategies, so it can remain competitive in the aviation market once the pandemic subsides.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, THAI has temporarily suspended all of its international services (except charters and cargo flights) until May 31, while its low-cost subsidiary THAI Smile takes over its domestic services to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi.
As a result of the decision, THAI's Executive Vice President for Finance and Accounting, Nattapong Samit-ampaipisarn, said the company will ground 69 of its 82 jets until the situation improves.
According to Mr Nattapong, travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the virus have hurt the company's operations significantly.
That said, air travel has not ground to a complete halt as THAI continues to operate cargo flights and stands ready to arrange special flights to repatriate Thais stranded abroad if requested, he said.
He added that THAI's other businesses, such as inflight catering and ground services, are still operating.
Amid the tough times, labour rights campaigners are calling on the government and airline companies to ensure fair treatment of workers in the aviation sector.
The State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation and the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee yesterday said airlines should clearly specify when staff will be able to return to work and ensure that the crisis is not being used to trigger lay-offs.