Aviation officials confident Thai airlines will survive EU audit

Aviation officials confident Thai airlines will survive EU audit

Transport authorities expect Thai-registered airlines to continue services to Europe. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Transport authorities expect Thai-registered airlines to continue services to Europe. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Airline executives and aviation officials expect the two Thai airlines serving Europe to escape unhurt when results of the European Aviation Safety Agency’s audit are released Thursday.

Both Chula Sukmanop, director of the Office of Civil Aviation, and a management source at Thai Airways International (THAI) said they expect that THAI and charter carrier MJets will continue to be allowed to fly to the continent after the European Commission publishes the EASA's findings online at 6pm Bangkok time Dec 10.

"Regarding the latest inquiry, EASA indicated that there was not a reason to ban Thai-registered airlines and its audit was not based on the findings of the FAA," Mr Chula said, referring to this month's decision by the US Federal Aviation Administration to downgrade Thailand's aviation-safety rating.

Even if the EASA downgrades Thailand's aviation system as a whole, THAI likely would be unaffected because it previously obtained the International Air Transport Association's Operational Safety Audit certification.

The airline source said the EASA had earlier checked THAI's safety and maintenance standards and authorised THAI as a "third country operator", or TCO, allowing it to serve EU countries. That authorisation is open-ended, although the EASA can conduct random checks at will, the source said.

MJets also has obtained TCO certification, the source added.

Mr Chula noted that the EASA used different criteria than the FAA to assess safety. The EU agency emphasises measures to ensure enough personnel, while the FAA focuses on air-operator licence certification. The European agency also takes into consideration the government's intention to solve its air-safety shortcoming, he claimed.

Towards that end, the Office of Civil Aviation and the EASA signed an agreement on Tuesday that will see the European agency assist Thailand in raising its civil-aviation standards.

Not everyone is confident the EASA will give Thailand a thumbs-up, however. Siam Commercial Bank's Economic Intelligence Centre said on Dec 3 that EASA audit results are usually fall in line with the FAA's.

The EIC cited the FAA's downgrade of Indonesia's aviation safety rating in April 2007 followed by EASA's ban in June on Indonesian airlines from flying to European countries, and the FAA's demotion of the Philippines' air safety rating in 2008 before the EASA banned Philippine carriers from entering the EU in 2010.

However, in light of THAI's IATA Operational Safety Audit certification, the carrier may still be allowed to fly to Europe, as was the case with four Indonesian airlines that were exempted from the EASA blacklist, the EIC said.

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