PM 'unfazed' by safety red flagging

PM 'unfazed' by safety red flagging

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday downplayed the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) red flag for “significant safety concerns” over Thai air safety, saying the move does not change anything.

He said the red flag issued by the aviation watchdog does not change the country’s current status and he said no ban has been placed on Thai flights as a result.

The safety concerns were raised when the ICAO carried out an audit of the Department of Civil Aviation’s (DCA) performance earlier this year.

The announcement was made on the ICAO's website on Thursday after a 90-day deadline to improve safety standards expired.

Gen Prayut also urged parties concerned not to panic over the issue which has received his full attention.

He assigned Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith to meet ICAO officials in Montreal, Canada earlier this week.

“They are satisfied and they’d love to see us make further efforts.

“We have to admit our faults and work to correct them,” he said.

Mr Arkhom insisted yesterday the move was standard ICAO procedure and that no measures have been enforced against the Thai aviation industry.

“The flagging has been there since they detected the flaws but it can be seen by member states only.

“After 90 days the status can be seen by the public. However, the information made available to the public is nothing new,” he said.

He said the ICAO has considered the corrective action plan and found it to be satisfactory.

The plan contains details and mitigation measures and a specific time frame for actions to be taken.

Mr Arkhom said the significant safety concerns mainly involved the performance of the DCA, and not the airline services.

The DCA plays a key role in regulating aviation businesses and granting Air Operator Certificates (AOC).

According to the deputy transport minister, a fresh inspection by the ICAO is expected in early September. Until then, Thai authorities are committed to implementing the corrective plan which includes reviewing the AOCs, increasing manpower and improving personnel training to handle licence inspection procedures.

“Airlines can operate their normal flights but they may not increase
their flights or increase flight routes,” he said.

Mr Arkhom said the issue is unlikely to affect the audit results of the US Federal Aviation Administration slated for July 13.

Meanwhile, Thai Airways International (THAI) president Charamporn Jotikasthira yesterday called on the DCA to urgently tackle the problems as airlines cannot increase flights if the status remains the way it is.

David Sri-udomchai, CEO of Asian Air which operates charter flights, echoed THAI’s concerns, saying since February flights have decreased by 18-20%, from 16 flights per month to 12 flights.

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