China has become the latest country to halt Thailand airlines from flying charters and new routes because of safety concerns.
Earlier, Japan and South Korea announced a similar move after significant safety issues were uncovered during an audit of Thailand’s civil aviation authority by the Montréal-based International Civil Aviation Organization, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed source.
The source said concerns revolved around the issue of operator certificates to carriers by the Thai authority.
“The audit revealed some safety concerns, primarily relating to air operator certification procedures,” spokesman Anthony Philbin.
He said Thailand had submitted a plan to correct the issues identified.
The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was aware of these concerns,but declined to say whether it was reviewing Thailand’s aviation safety status, and referred questions to Thai authorities.
The move comes as a blow to Thai air carriers that have just begun to recover after a poor 2014 when political protests slashed the number of tourists visiting the Southeast Asian country.
The halt is disrupting the peak travel season around the Thai New Year holiday in April.
About 100 charter flights to Japan alone have been canceled and some 30,000 tickets either refunded or modified, Somchai Piputwat, director general of Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation, said.
Budget carriers have been worst hit, although national carrier Thai Airways International, which is in the midst of a major restructuring, has been prevented from expanding because of the halt.
Analysts say an FAA downgrade of Thailand’s aviation safety assessment would prevent Thai airlines from launching or expanding service to the United States, either directly or as code-share partners.
It would also limit their choice of aircraft and increase inspections of Thai aircraft at US airports.
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