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Thai PM says lifting of red flag a significant turning point for country

Thailand’s government announced that the country would slowly regain its confidence in its aviation standard and Thai carriers are expected to add more flights after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) lifted the “red flag” status over safety issues.

Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that the development was a crucial turning point for the country’s aviation sector afterefforts raised the level of confidence in Thai airlines along with a plan to turn the nation into a regional aviation hub.

Thailand was relegated in June 2015 after its regulator missed a deadline to resolve significant safety concerns and 33 issues remained unfixed. As a result, airlines were barred from adding additional international routes, though they could continue to operate routine flights.

Prayut said the ICAO made the decision after a meeting last Friday.  Currently, 18 airlines in the country have improved to a satisfactory standard and 10 more airlines await further improvement to the standard.

Thailand’s Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said that information coming from the ICAO’s Asia-Pacific office, the red flag that appeared against Thailand on its website had been removed.

What comes after is that Thailand’s Ministry of Transport will move forward to solve two issues, including other insignificant matters for safety, and development of aviation personnel sufficient for working up to and maintaining the standard, he said.

“Lifting the red flag will allow Thai airlines to fly all routes where Thailand has aviation agreements. There were no limitations like earlier. Thai airlines are expected to add more potential routes,” the Transport Minister said.

Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT)’s Director-General Chula Sukmanop remarked that Thailand expects to reclaim a Category One status from the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during in the first quarter of next year. The FAA also downgraded Thailand in 2015.

The list of nine out of 11 airlines that were given air operator’s certificates (AOCs) was sent to the ICAO for acknowledgement, he said, conveying assurance that two more airlines would receive AOCs.

Sukmanop said lifting the red flag would assure other regional auditors. CAAT officials are set to see its European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) counterparts for discussion on ICAO’s removal of the red flag against Thailand and its improvements.

KTB Securities (Thailand)’s Senior Director Mongkol Puangpetra said that the Thai aviation industry’s outlook leveled up after the ICAO’s red-flag removal against Thailand, which could spark the Thai aviation industry to grow more.

Nok Air Plc is expected to gain most with more flights, he said. In the fourth quarter of this year, the airlines are expected to grow as a result of more Chinese tourists.

Asia Plus Securities expects Thai Airways International Plc, with its plans for added routes in Japan, South Korea and the United States, to see the biggest gain, followed by Nok Air, which plans to expand its routes in Japan and South Korea.

AirAsia could also gain with passengers who travel by Thai AirAsia X that is expected to open new routes in South Korea and Japan.

Kasikorn Research Center also reported that the ICAO removal of the red flag will boost Thailand’s aviation revenue to the tune of achieving Bt278 billion by the end of this year and will achieve Bt294.5 billion in the year 2018 or up 5.5 per cent from this year.

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