New Safety Concerns: Should You Fly Thailand’s Airlines?

The International Civil Aviation Organization has “significant safety concerns” about Thailand’s aviation regulator‘s standards (not about Thailand’s airlines).

ICAO, a UN agency, informed governments around the world about its designation of Thailand as a “significant safety concern” on March 20. ICAO’s designation came after it determined that the “corrective action plan” submitted by the Department of Civil Aviation on March 2 to address the issues raised by ICAO were “needing revision’, ACM Prajin said this weekend.

The designation is seen as a possible prelude to ICAO’s downgrading of the kingdom from the so-called Category 1 to Category 2 as result of its January audit, which reportedly showed that the DCA was able to meet only 21 out of 100 ICAO requisites.

The audit covered a broad range of areas relevant to aviation safety and airline operations, but was intended to assess the performance and expertise of the civil aviation authority and not of individual airlines. The last similar audit was in 2005.

Some of the key areas considered lacking are personnel licensing and training, airworthiness assessment and certification, accident investigation and airline operations oversight and licensing.

DCA was given a 90-day grace period, which has yet to expire, to comply with the ICAO’s standards.

Out of concern that Thailand’s government isn’t doing a proper job, several countries are now taking it upon themselves to impose their own inspections on Thai aircraft departing their airports.

At least three countries — Japan, China and Singapore — have now subjected aircraft operated by Thai airlines to exhaustive inspections at their airports, industry executives with knowledge of the matter.

Japan has banned new flights and also aircraft changes for existing flights.

Possible future action by US and European regulators could require the elimination of codeshares on Thai Airways and Bangkok Airways flights.

I have been flying Thai Airways for years and have flown Bangkok Airways. I’ve never had safety concerns. My confidence in Thai has been bolstered by the modern aircraft they fly, and their ability to meet Star Alliance operational standards. As I point out, these reports are not specifically about any airline. The concern is that the Thai government isn’t well-equipped to oversee the airlines. Towards that end I actually think the Japanese, Chinese, and Singaporean solution of inspecting aircraft themselves is a good, creative approach to concerns.

I continue to have confidence in Thai-registered airlines themselves, and would have no hesitation in flying them from countries that are stepping into the breach.

One imagines that the issues identified in the audit aren’t new (since the last audit was a decade ago) and there haven’t been significant consequences in the meantime. And I’m certainly hopeful that the deficiencies can be addressed in short order.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thai Airways has been grappling with enormous corruption and troubles in their corporate governance for years. I would not be surprised if that has led to safety failures…

  2. Sorry, I like your blog very much, but you are very naive if you think that because of “modern aircraft they fly, and their ability to meet Star Alliance operational standards.” means they are safe.
    If the national authority cannot meet 80% of the ICAO requirements, then how complaint do you think the airlines are to the regulations.
    The national authority is in place to regulate these airlines and I have no confidence in their ability to do that when ICAO has so many findings.

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