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Thailand based airlines are struggling to avoid further damage caused by Japan’s ban on several Thailand-registered carriers out of safety concerns.
Japan’s banning of increased chartered flights from Thailand has not only affected Thai tourists but also Japanese tourists planning to visit the country during the Songkran festival.
Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) secretary general Charoen Wangananond said the ban has already affected Thai tourists booking package tours to Japan because they won’t be able to fly on schedules.
Aviation executives are concerned that the action taken by Japan and South Korea will develop into a full-blown curb on all flights, both existing and new, operated by Thai-registered carriers to those countries.
ICAO’s concerns expressed over DCA’s safety standards
Most recently, the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB) announced it would not allow new chartered and scheduled flights operated by Thai-registered airlines into Japan, a move seen as a reaction to the ICAO’s concerns expressed over the DCA’s standards.
DCA chief Somchai Phiphutthawat said airlines affected by the announcement included Thai Airways International, AirAsia X, NokScoot and Asia Atlantic.
The DCA travelled to Japan last Thursday to give the JCAB more information on Thai airlines’ safety standards and the progress of the department’s efforts to comply with the ICAO’s standards, he said.
Transport Minister Prajin Juntong today expressed concern that the poor rating of the Thai Civil Aviation Department’s control of air safety measures by the ICAO may spin out of control in a domino-like effect.
He pointed out that Japan had already banned chartered flights from Thailand and rejected increased scheduled flights of Thai carriers and this effect might expand to the other countries such as China, South Korea and Singapore.
“This is a national issue and the Transport Ministry will quickly resolve the problem otherwise it may cause a domino effect which has just started,” said the transport minister.
The ban also will affect Japanese tourists visiting Thailand
Thai AirAsia X (TAAX), the country’s first long-haul LCC, whose launch of daily service linking Bangkok with Sapporo, set to begin on May 1, is suspended, hopes to see a positive result from the Thai Civil Aviation Department and the JCAB.
“We are still waiting for a final conclusion from the meeting and unable to comment until we have more information from the relevant authorities,” TAAX chief executive Nadda Buranasiri said.
An industry executive talked about TAAX possibly using a similar tactic as NokScoot, ferrying those already booked on its Sapporo flight with the help of a sister airline, AirAsia X.
He expected some 2,000 Japanese tourists will miss their schedules to visit during the Songkran festival as they are tour groups that will travel on chartered flights of Asia Atlantic Airline and Jet Asia Airway.
He said normally the two airlines will fly two round trips or flying Thai tourists to Japan and returning with Japanese tourists to Thailand.
But he said the two airlines have suspended flights from Thailand, fearing that if the return trip falls on April 1, it can not fly out, and that will create chaos among passengers.
He said about 20,000 seats on chartered flights have been sold out during the period, but only 10% of seats could be rearranged to other airlines.
500,000 booked tours to Japan for Songkran holidays
According to ATTA, 450,000 Thais visited Japan in 2013, and rose to 600,000 in 2014. For the long holiday periods from March to May, ATTA said 500,000 Thais have booked tours to Japan.
Japan’s ban of chartered flights from Thailand has now sparked fear that it might also affect Thai passengers in Inchon airport in South Korea. Latest report said some 500 Thai tourists were stranded at Inchon airport travelling on Asia Atlantic Airline, and Jet Asia Airway on Saturday night.
However tour companies have rearranged them to Korean Airline and Jetasia to fly them out already. They arrived in Bangkok Sunday afternoon.
Commenting on the incident, Mr Voradej Harnprasert, deputy permanent secretary for transport said South Korea has not officially notified that it will ban chartered flights from Thailand same as Japan.
Looking further ahead, they fear that the US, the EU and China could pursue punitive action against Thailand.