MATTERS of safety, capacity and cost are hampering the competitiveness of Thailand’s aviation sector, according to a statement by IATA, and the association is calling on the country’s government to hastily rectify them.
“Aviation is critical to Thailand’s economic success. It is the backbone of the tourism industry and provides critical global business links. We estimate that today aviation and related activities account for some 2 million Thai jobs and generate US$29 billion in GDP,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO.
“And by 2035 we could see that grow to 3.8 million jobs and US$53 billion in GDP. If realised, that potential 83 per cent growth would have a broad and positive impact across the Thai economy. It is in jeopardy, however, unless key issues of safety, capacity and costs are addressed urgently.”
Regarding safety, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had recently assigned Thailand a lower Category 2 rating based on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards, after a reassessment of the country’s civil aviation authority in July, 2015.
With the downgrade, Thailand’s carriers can continue existing flights to the US, but will not be allowed to establish new routes there. Thailand was fortunately spared being put on the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) blacklist, a list of airlines banned from operating in 28 European Union member countries.
“ICAO and the US FAA have pointed out safety oversight concerns and divergence from global standards at the government level. Safety is aviation’s top priority. The government of Thailand must address these concerns in support of a vibrant aviation sector that is the backbone of travel and tourism,” said Tyler.
There are also safety concerns about soft spots on the tarmac, taxiways and apron area of Suvarnabhumi airport with aircraft frequently getting stuck in them. The extra power and towing needed to maneuver through these surfaces is a safety risk to ground personnel, ground vehicles and aircraft, warned IATA.
On top of that, frequent surface repairs create congestion. Tyler stated: “The constant resurfacing of the tarmac, taxiways and apron area with asphalt is an unacceptable patchwork solution. We literally need a concrete solution.”
The airport also faces a capacity crunch. Suvarnabhumi is handling over 52 million passengers, which already exceeds the terminal design capacity of 45 million while demand is growing by 10 per cent annually. Fast tracking the phase two terminal expansion would provide much needed terminal capacity. IATA also calls for third runway plans at Suvarnabhumi to move forward.
As well, with LCCs accounting for 54 per cent of the shorthaul market in South-east Asia and with gulf carriers growing stronger in the longhaul segment, IATA is urging Thailand to remain competitive on the pricing front.
“In the face of intense competition, Thailand’s aviation competitiveness is being chipped away with various new or increased taxes and charges. It is in Thailand’s long-term self-interest to review and abandon proposals that increase the cost of transportation. That includes taxes or charges,” said Tyler.