Commercial flights face strict disease-control rules

Commercial flights face strict disease-control rules

Aircraft are parked at Suvarnabhumi airport due to Covid-19. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Aircraft are parked at Suvarnabhumi airport due to Covid-19. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Commercial airlines have been told to adopt strict anti-disease transmission rules when they resume domestic flights on May 1, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT).

While returning to the skies is the airlines' right, they must operate flights differently, said Chula Sukmanop, the CAAT director-general.

The airlines, mostly low-cost carriers, will meet the CAAT tomorrow to discuss guidelines and rules for restarting flights on May 1 following weeks of operational suspension as Covid-19 has caused air travel demand to dry up.

He said the rules, which factor in social distancing and disease-transmission prevention, include leaving empty seats in each row in cabins, requiring passengers to wear face masks and not serving food and drinks.

The May 1 flight resumption comes as a temporary ban on incoming foreign aircraft issued by the CAAT remains in effect until the end of the month, with exceptions made for some flights, including repatriation flights.

Thai-registered airlines which have put the brakes on their flights so far are national carrier Thai Airways International, its low-cost subsidiary, THAI Smile, Thai AirAsia, and Thai AirAsia X.

Meanwhile, international flights operated by Nok Scoot will remain suspended until the end of the month while Bangkok Airways has shelved its international flights indefinitely although its domestic flights have been halted until the end of the month.

At least 3 airlines -- Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air and Bangkok Airways -- have announced they will restart domestic flights next month.

This week, the four airlines, as well as Vietjet Air, Thai AirAsia X and THAI Smile, sought a 16-billion-baht bailout from the Finance Ministry to pay staff while their services are suspended.

Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Asia Aviation, the largest shareholder in Thai AirAsia, said the airlines had jointly decided to seek financial aid.

Meanwhile, THAI said on Tuesday it was sending repatriation flights to Sydney, Australia, and to Auckland, New Zealand, to bring Thai citizens home from April 25-27.


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