The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has given Thailand a red-flag for not handling safety concerns properly. But how can the nation rebuild a reputation?
The latest “red-flag” by an international organization has caused aviation concern in the Pacific region.
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CNN reports the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has flagged Thailand's ability to handle safety concerns after a warning March and later amended Thursday, June 18. The Safety Audit Information placed the red flag due to the nation's inadequate time line when handling several Significant Safety Concerns (SSC).
Only 13 nations in world are red-flagged by the organization: Angola, Botswana, Djibouti, Eritrea, Georgia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malawi, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, and now Thailand.
ICAO is part of the United Nations, which sets global standards and criteria for passengers throughout the world. However, a failure to meet safety regulations from the oversight organization does not mean a complete failure.
Thai Airways released a statement that assured the customers and the public since March, the airline has "undergone additional and more frequent safety audits and station inspections by these authorities" to meet regional and other national standards worldwide. Also pointing out, "Thai will be audited at the Company’s base by other states’ civil aviation authorities."
According to the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) report, the lack of adequate staff at Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) means less personnel to ensure safety guideline maintenance. Alan Polivnick, a partner at global law firm Watson Farley & Williams, notes that individual airlines need not feel targeted since DCA is on the block.
"If you look at the growth in airlines and airline operators in Thailand over the last 10-15 years, the number of people in the DCA supervising and dealing with applications hasn't changed much."
Thai Airways is taking no chances, however. Individually, the company meets the standards for Australia, China, Europe, Japan, and United States. Additionally, the IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) has cleared the airlines for safe travel.
"We've already had Korea, China and Japan place restrictions on new Thai flights. Singapore, Australia and the EU ordered enhanced inspections," said Polivnick.
"If you look at all the other countries that have red flags, Thailand is the only one other than Nepal in this region, and there will be concerns raised about this."
A new inspection in early September should clear the country from possible safety concerns, the deputy transport minister told the Bangkok Post. Adding that Air Operator Certificates (AOC) will be reviewed more thoroughly, increased training in handling the licensing inspections, and hiring more manpower.
"Airlines can operate their normal flights but they may not increase their flights or increase flight routes,” said Deputy Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.
The FSA's audit next month shouldn't be affected by the new information. But the lack of regulation is costing businesses. As CEO of Asian Air David Sri-udomchai tells the paper since February, chartered flights have decreased around 18-20% percent a month.
Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha feels the red flag changes little for the state. Assigning an official to meet with representatives of the United Nations organization, he downplayed the significance.
Termpittayapaisith met the ICAO in Montreal, Canada, earlier this week. “The flagging has been there since they detected the flaws but it can be seen by member states only."
Pointing out that “after 90 days the status can be seen by the public" without providing new information, he looked to reassure customers and passengers that Thailand is being diligent.
Polivnick agrees with the assessment, highlighting the fact by not downgrading to a Category 2, the ICAO may be looking a better outcome.
“The red flag may suggest that ICAO is prepared to work with the Thai government to address their concerns over Aircraft Operations and may amount to some form of probation, where Thailand would be required to demonstrate within a period that it has addressed the SSC to the satisfaction of ICAO."
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And the future does look optimistic. “They are satisfied and they’d love to see us make further efforts," said the prime minister. "We have to admit our faults and work to correct them."