US downgrades Thailand’s air safety rating

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Thai Airways suspended its last US route in October
Thai Airways suspended its last US route in October (photo by EQ Roy)

The US has downgraded Thailand’s aviation safety rating to Category 2, meaning Thai carriers are unable to launch new flights to the country.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed the move this week, following an unsatisfactory audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in July this year and further discussions with the Thai government that concluded in October.

Under the Category 2 rating, Thai carriers are not permitted to launch new flights to the US or change their existing routes or aircraft. At present this will make no difference, as no Thai airline currently flies to the US. Thai Airways International (THAI) suspended its last remaining US route, to Los Angeles, on 25 October. But it does mean that THAI will not be able to resume US flights until the safety rating improves.

THAI said in a statement that “there is no commercial or customer impact” to its operations from the downgraded rating, and that it will “continue to serve customers through codeshare and interline partners to USA destinations”.

What could be more series however, is the view European regulators take. The European Union operates a separate system from the US and at present Thai carriers are free to operate flights to Europe. But the FAA downgrade is likely to put Thailand in the spotlight, and the placement of Thailand on the EU’s aviation blacklist would have serious implications for THAI.

The downgrade marks the first time since 1997 that Thailand has been listed as a Category 2 country, meaning it does not meet ICAO standards. This puts Thailand in the same aviation safety bracket as Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia and Uruguay.

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