Airspace rejig over war fears

Airspace rejig over war fears

Ukraine crisis could force rerouted travel

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob: Aerothai gets order
Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob: Aerothai gets order

The Transport Ministry has ordered the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (Aerothai) to prepare for contingencies with a possible increase in aviation and air traffic movement through Thailand in light of limited airspace access resulting from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob issued the order to Aerothai after Juan Carlos Salazar Gomez, secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), paid a formal visit to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on April 5. Thailand is home of the ICAO's office in the Asia Pacific.

Mr Saksayam said the head of ICAO and the prime minister discussed the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has prompted the closure of airspace over Ukraine and Russian airspace to aircraft belonging to nations deemed by Moscow to be hostile to it.

Some airlines have had to take detour routes around closed airspaces and they might need to fly over Thailand.

Mr Saksayam said he has told the Aerothai to review data including airline routes and the amount of air traffic passing over Thailand before designing a contingency plan.

In some cases, the airlines might have to make refuelling stops in Thailand and so airport ground-handling capacity will need to be considered. Flight times on routes from East to West might need to add an extra three hours as a result of the detour, according to the minister.

"I've instructed state agencies to prepare the necessary information in case we need to work with the ICAO on the airspace issue," Mr Saksayam said. Thailand would not permit Russian commercial airlines with either passengers or cargo flying to Thailand at this time.

However, permission may be granted on humanitarian grounds such as evacuating stranded citizens. "The government remains neutral because we're not a party in the conflict," he said, adding the government's actions must be mulled over carefully. "There's no going towards left or right. We have to follow the stand of the United Nations," the minister added.

Thailand joined 141 nations in voting in favour of a resolution condemning Russia's aggression in Ukraine during the 11th Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly. Thailand, however, recently abstained from a vote to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over its aggression against Ukraine.

Thailand was among 58 nations, including Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, which abstained from the vote.

Ninety-three countries such as Canada, Australia, Belgium, France and the United States voted in favour, while 24 countries including China, Iran, Lao PDR and Vietnam voted against the move.

According to ambassador to the United Nations Suriya Chindawongse the country voted to abstain due to the overriding importance it attaches to a "transparent, impartial and inclusive approach in the multilateral regime".

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