FAA downgrades Thai aviation

FAA downgrades Thai aviation

Airplanes park at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo by Narupon Hinshiranan)
Airplanes park at Suvarnabhumi airport. (Photo by Narupon Hinshiranan)

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has downgraded Thailand’s aviation sector, setting the stage for possible worldwide bans of Thai-registered airlines.

"A reassessment in July 2015 found that Thailand did not meet international standards," the US regulation agency said a statement posted on its website on Tuesday.

"Today's announcement follows ongoing discussions with the government of Thailand which concluded on Oct 28," it added.

The decision means Thailand has dropped to Category 2 from Category 1, increasing odds that Thai carriers will be subjected to service curtailments or outright bans not only in the US, but Europe and Asia.

Thailand had been rated on Category 1 since 1997. That status allowed Thai-registered carriers to fly to the US and launch new services.

"With a Category 2 rating, Thailand's carriers can continue existing service to the United States. They will not be allowed to establish new service to the United States," the FAA said.

The FAA previously downgraded the Philippines to Category 2 and imposed a complete flight ban on its airlines. The European Union, through its European Aviation Safety Agency, traditionally follows the FAA's lead.

That agency used an FAA downgrade of Indonesia's aviation-safety standards to impose a total flight ban on that country's airlines for several years.

The EASA, which also recently audited Thailand's aviation system, will release the results of its investigation on Dec 15.

Ironically, the only Thai carrier to serve the United States, Thai Airways International, ended all flights to North America on Oct 25 due to intense competition on transpacific routes and the airline's ongoing cost-cutting plans to drop unprofitable routes.

The downgrade followed the audit by the FAA in July and the US agency had sent the results to the US embassy in Thailand.

The FAA's move came after the Montreal-based International Aviation Organisation (ICAO) had given Thailand a red flag on June 18 after the country could not meet its standards for regulating aviation businesses and granting air operator certificates.

The FAA inspections found the same results that Thailand does not comply with the ICAO standards.

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