Overseas commercial flight ban might not end on July 1

Overseas commercial flight ban might not end on July 1

Business people likely the first travellers

A Thai Smile Airways plane takes off from Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
A Thai Smile Airways plane takes off from Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The ban on commercial international flights might not be lifted on July 1 as originally planned and, if and when the ban is scrapped, business people will likely be the first to be allowed to travel, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT).

CAAT director-general Chula Sukmanop made the statement after meeting representatives from 10 commercial airlines operating both domestic and international flights, five private jet firms and four airport operators on Tuesday.

Mr Chula said it is not certain if the July 1 planned re-opening of airports to international fights will proceed. The ban went into effect on April 27 at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown.

He reasoned that before the ban is revoked, the Public Health Ministry must evaluate health safety and give the green light. Also, the "travel bubble" scheme will need to be negotiated where travel will resume progressively between Thailand and countries deemed safe from Covid-19 transmission.

Restoring international flights must take into account the issues of travel safety and whether destination countries have reopened their borders to Thai citizens.

Also, the CAAT has determined that not everyone will be able to fly out of the country immediately after the ban is lifted. Business people may be the first group to be permitted to travel overseas.

He said business people and investors will need to undergo health checks before travelling. They are more prepared and better able to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 transmission than tourists, according to Mr Chula.

"They could be the first group allowed to book air tickets on international routes," he said.

Business people are more resilient to the effects of the pandemic. For example, they have the means at their disposal to pay for staying in a foreign country during an extended period of quarantine and if there are associated medical costs.

Mr Chula, meanwhile, said that when the international flights resume, they will conform to safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Authority.

However, airlines will no longer have to leave empty seats on flights to keep passengers apart. The empty-seat measure has been opposed by airlines as it eats into the load factor and profits.

However, passengers will still be required to wear masks during flights and airlines must install effective cabinet air filter systems.

Mr Chula added food and drinks to be served on flights exceeding two hours must be in sealed containers. This is where airlines have raised queries.

Also at yesterday's meeting between airlines and the CAAT, it was agreed in principle that the last three rows in the back of the cabin must be left unoccupied to accommodate any passengers who fall sick during a flight. However, the restriction may not be applicable to flights that are less than one hour long.

Meanwhile, Thai Airways International is prepared to restart commercial flights on Aug 1 on lucrative routes.

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