Thailand to end 'open sky' policy

Thailand to end 'open sky' policy

The continual increase in the number of international and domestic commercial flights in Thailand has overloaded capacity and led the government to declare an end to
The continual increase in the number of international and domestic commercial flights in Thailand has overloaded capacity and led the government to declare an end to "open skies". (Photo by Kitja Apichonrojarek)

Thailand will restrict the number of incoming flights as they are overloading its skies and airports, Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said on Friday.

The minister said the move away from the "open sky" policy was needed to ensure aviation safety. Staff were now working on the full details.

"Our sky cannot provide space for more flights. To ensure safety and prevent aircraft collisions, we must limit the use of our sky, manage flight schedules and re-organise flights to times of light traffic to prevent congestion in some periods. The problem must be solved quickly," ACM Prajin said.

Immediate changes were necessary because International Civil Aviation Organization representatives would arrive in Thailand again next year as part of the ICAO's universal security audit programme, he said.

If Thailand once again did not meet the ICAO's safety standards it would worsen the existing problems  facing the Thai aviation industry, the transport minister said.

At present, 800 flights were using Suvarnabhumi airport daily, but it was designed to ideally handle only 600 flights, he said.

Under his "Open Sky with Conditions" policy, transport authorities will draw up a plan specifying the acceptable number of visiting flights, and carefully consider the capacities of individual airports to handle these flights, ACM Prajin said.

The plan would be proposed to the cabinet for immediate implementation, he said.

Voradet Harnprasert, deputy permanent secretary for transport, said details of the new policy would be ready by September.

Thailand has applied an open sky policy since 2001 to promote tourism, and the number of domestic and international flights has been rising steadily ever since, he said.

Suvarnabhumi airport's capacity had already been exceeded. It was planned to handle 45 million passengers yearly, but was actually handling 50 million, he said.


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