Thai carriers in trouble after ICAO safety audit

China, South Korea and Japan have stopped Thai carriers from flying charters and new routes because of safety concerns highlighted by the audit.

audit budget carriers ICAO safety Thai Airways Thailand USOAP

A January audit by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has raised serious safety concerns over Thailand’s commercial aviation standards. Already China, South Korea and Japan have stopped Thai carriers from flying charters and new routes because of safety concerns highlighted by the international safety audit.

The problem also threatens to become graver for Thailand should other jurisdictions including the US and the European Union take similar action, particularly if the ICAO downgrades Thailand from Category 1 to Category 2. 

The UN organisation tasked with creating and monitoring global regulatory standards would only say that the audit, “revealed some safety concerns, primarily relating to air operator certification procedures,” according to Anthony Philbin, communications chief for the ICAO Secretary General in Montreal. The ICAO audit of the Thai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) is part of its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) which it regularly carriers out on the civil aviation authorities of ICAO member states to ensure consistent global standard for aviation safety.

The results of the audit come as a blow to Thai carriers that have only just recently begun to recover after political protests resulted in a military coup and martial law – lifted only on 1 April – dampened tourist arrivals. The timing is particularly bad, as it comes just ahead of the peak travel season around the Thai Songkran 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, the director general of Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), told media in Bangkok this week.