Kan Air grounded on eight domestic routes

Kan Air grounded on eight domestic routes

DCA rules flights are scheduled, not charter

Kan Air's ATR 72-500 turboprop sits at Don Mueang airport. The commuter airline has been forced to suspend five routes out of its newly created hub, U-tapao airport in Rayong, and three routes from its core base at Chiang Mai airport from June 15.
Kan Air's ATR 72-500 turboprop sits at Don Mueang airport. The commuter airline has been forced to suspend five routes out of its newly created hub, U-tapao airport in Rayong, and three routes from its core base at Chiang Mai airport from June 15.

Kan Air has been forced to suspend more than half of its network as civil aviation authorities get tough on airline operating licences.

The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has banned the Thai commuter carrier, which only flies domestically, from serving eight routes it operated on a charter basis because the services were actually of a scheduled nature.

As Kan Air sold tickets for those routes online and over the counter with fixed timetables, the rights granted to it for charter flights did not conform to its actual operations, according to industry sources.

According to the DCA, to qualify for a charter flight permit, Kan Air would need to sell tickets on a wholesale basis and not through retail distribution channels.

The verdict led Kan Air to suspend services from five routes out of its newly created hub, U-tapao airport in Rayong, and three routes from its core base at Chiang Mai airport from June 15.

It started flying from U-tapao to Chiang Mai, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen and Bangkok's Don Mueang airport on April 10.

Also being suspended are its services from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Mae Sot and Nakhon Ratchasima.

Industry executives see the DCA's action against Kan Air as stemming from officials' move to appease the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) by strictly enforcing regulations.

The DCA is struggling to remove the red flag placed on Thailand by the UN agency in charge of global aviation on June 18 after it failed to meet a 90-day deadline for corrective action.

That grace period was given to allow the DCA to right the "significant safety concerns" raised by the ICAO after the department failed the February aviation safety oversight audit. Further inspections by the ICAO are unlikely to be completed before the year-end.

The DCA's action reduces Kan Air's routes to eight — seven from Chiang Mai and one from Bangkok — that are in compliance with regulations for scheduled flights.

Flights from Chiang Mai are to Mae Hong Son, Pai, Nan, Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, Phitsanulok and Hua Hin, while its only service from Don Mueang is to Mae Sot.

Kan Air has since sought a new permit from the DCA to enable the suspended routes to resume operations officially on a scheduled basis, possibly in October, according to sources.

"We don't expect difficulties to get DCA approval because we follow their advice," a Kan Air executive said.

In order to reduce spare aircraft capacity resulting from the suspended routes, the airline has tripled the frequency of its Don Mueang-Mae Sot route to three flights a day.

Utilisation of Kan Air's two main workhorses — the 66-seat ATR 72-500 turboprops — is 80% for the one based in Chiang Mai and 60% for the aircraft stationed at Don Mueang.



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