Captain claims strike for 'passenger safety'

Captain claims strike for 'passenger safety'

Warns Nok Air exec of one-sided information

Nok Air's reputation was battered Sunday by a wildcat walkout by pilot that grounded nine flights and stranded hundreds of passengers. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Nok Air's reputation was battered Sunday by a wildcat walkout by pilot that grounded nine flights and stranded hundreds of passengers. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

A Nok Air captain, who has been dismissed following Sunday's strike, defended pilots' decision to stop working saying the move was aimed at ensuring passenger safety.

Sanit Khongphet said on a Tuesday TV programme on Channel 3 that seven captains who are being probed over their cancellation of nine flights on Sunday only followed ethical standards because it was "better to have passengers wait on ground than take them to death". He did not say exactly why he thought the airline was unsafe.

Nok Air pilots went on strike on Sunday, resulting in the cancellation of nine flights. Hundreds of travellers were stranded at Don Mueang airport.

Mr Sanit, also former manager for aviation standards, said he has an explanation that would clarify the Sunday incident and warned Patee Sarasin, chief executive of Nok Air, against receiving one-sided information.

Nok Air earlier said the strike resulted from the dissatisfaction of some pilots who did not pass a new aviation management audit which, Mr Patee said, is based on safety standards set by the European Aviation Safety Agency and the International Air Transport Association.

He also criticised Mr Sanit for not working on Monday, though his name was on the flight schedule.

Mr Sanit argued he had informed them he was ill. "I was sick on Monday but on Sunday many people were sick," he said, without elaborating.

He denied he was behind the strike and said the incident had nothing to do with structural issues in the company.

Mr Sanit also pointed out a flaw in pilot training. He said trainers were "under pressure" to allow unqualified pilots to work.

Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said he found that many airlines make pilots work beyond acceptable flying hours and he had ordered all airlines to send pilots' flight reports to the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand for inspection.

Mr Patee admitted Tuesday that some Nok Air pilots worked over the limit, but once this was found out, they were ordered to stop working immediately.

He said Nok Air is facing a shortage of pilots and the airline has already reduced flights to bring it in line with the number of pilots on the payroll.

The government has warned Nok Air it could lose its licence if it allows passengers to be affected by its problems.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said after the Tuesday cabinet meeting that the cabinet ordered the Transport Ministry to call in Mr Patee for a warning.

If such an incident recurs, Nok Air's licence will be suspended and a third offence would result in the licence being terminated, Maj Gen Sansern said.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said that Nok Air's CEO had shown up late at Don Mueang airport after the pilots went on strike, even though airline staff and officials should be on hand during such incidents to help passengers and take swift responses.

Gen Prawit also said it was unacceptable for pilots to strike in protest against a measure aimed at improving air safety standards.


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