THAILAND’s inbound agencies are more worried about the impending European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) safety rating review than the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s move to downgrade the civil aviation authority’s safety rating.
EASA is expected to announce its verdict on Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) next Thursday.
Willem Niemeijer, CEO of Khiri Group, said: “An adverse decision by the EASA will not just affect Thailand, but also countries such as Myanmar and Laos, which rely heavily on Bangkok as an aviation hub. That said, Thailand remains very resilient as a destination and other airlines will quickly fill in any gap left by airlines based in Thailand.”
Niemeijer further explained: “It is important to know the FAA decision is not directly made against THAI or any airline, but rather against the DCA.
“The DCA in turn needs to urgently make changes in order to get out of the downgrade. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), problems include understaffing, outdated manuals and systems, and an archaic aviation law,” he added.
Luzi Matzig, chairman of Asian Trails concurred, saying that “things are not just black and white”.
“Of more importance is the decision by EASA controlling European airspace, and if they decide to downgrade Thailand, then THAI may no longer be allowed to fly into Europe which would of course negatively affect tourist movements to and from Thailand.
“I do not expect this to happen as nobody can claim that Thailand’s standards are not up to date,” added Matzig. “Let’s wait and see.”
However, Hamish Keith, COO of Exo Travel, is taking a stronger stance. He said: “The downgrading of Thailand’s aviation sector by the FAA is very bad news for Thailand and the region.
“If action is not taken quickly and decisively by the authorities, we risk facing a ban similar to Indonesia a few years ago, which we all know had a serious impact on the destination’s reputation and created a very difficult situation for tour operators.”