As reported earlier (News – June 15, 2015),the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) completed an audit of the Thai aviation sector and noted a number of deficiencies. As such, the agency announced that it has “significant safety concerns” in its final report.
After a reassessment in July 2015, Thailand’s aviation did not perform enough remediation. As such the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it downgraded the status of the industry from Category 1 to 2.
Per FAA, this means that:
- Air carriers from the assessed state cannot initiate new service and are restricted to current levels of any existing service to the United States while corrective actions are underway; and
- FAA does not support reciprocal code-share arrangements between air carriers for the assessed state and U.S. carriers when the CAA has been rated Category 2. During this time, the foreign air carrier serving the United States is subject to additional inspections at U.S. airports.
International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on the Thai government to urgently take remedial action following the findings of the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP). “It is important for governments to provide adequate, thorough regulatory regimes to ensure aviation safety. ICAO audits the regulator’s compliance with ICAO standards and recommended practices. We hope that the Thai Government is able to quickly take remedial action to align its activities with global standards.
The aviation industry in Thailand is growing quickly and bringing many opportunities to the Thai economy, particularly in tourism. This should be a national priority,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“At the same time, travelers should be re-assured that airlines are committed to global best practices in safety. Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways are long-standing members of IATA. They have successfully completed IOSA audits reflecting compliance with over 900 global standards on operational safety.
IOSA is an open standard for all airlines. To bring even greater assurance to passengers we encourage all carriers in Thailand to complete the IOSA audit process. It is a practical means to improving safety performance by aligning their operations with global best practices. And we would also encourage the Thai government to consider making IOSA a requirement for a Thai AOC. Carriers on the IOSA registry consistently outperform the industry average safety performance,” said Tyler.
Thai Airways ended operations to the US back in October 2015 (News – July 23, 2015). As such, it would be very difficult for them to re-start service when they receive their Airbus A350-900s in 2016 (News – October 7, 2015).
FAA’s decision could have a cascade effect for all Thailand flights around the world. Thai Airways International has a big European long haul operation and is a big network player in Asia. Cologne-based European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will review the re-assessment to determine if it will follow the FAA and announce a similar downgrade.
Any additional downgrades can have a major impact to Thailand’s airlines. Thai Airways would not be able to retire old aircrafts and replace them with newer more efficient versions. Low cost carriers would not be able to expand beyond regions without restrictions.
It is important to note that the Category 2 classification does not mean complete bans on flights. However, this could be the end path if the country’s aviation authority cannot adequately demonstrate that it remediated deficiencies noted by the safety audit in subsequent assessments.
FAA – List of aviation authorities and categories
EASA – List of aviation authorities and categories