BANGKOK — A black mark has been lifted from Thai aviation more than two years after it was red-flagged for safety concerns by international authorities.
The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization has withdrawn the “red flag” status that’s been in place since June 2015 due to deficiencies in monitoring standard safety protocols by domestic airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand announced Monday.
The status change is good news for 13 domestic carriers who were ordered to halt international flights until they could be recertified. Eleven of the nation’s largest airlines including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia, had already received operation certificates.
The news was welcomed by Jaiyavat Navaraj, the president of MJets, a private air terminal at Don Mueang Airport.
“I had to stop flying internationally for 26 days and definitely suffered some losses,” Jaiyavat said. “But sometimes you have to do it for your country. It was worth it for the red flag to be removed.”
Mjets and K-mile Air were the first of the 13 operators to be recertified so far, with the rest expected to follow.
Jaiyavat said safety issues identified system-wide over two years ago led to the downgrade, but slow bureaucracy was to blame for how long it took to get recertified.
“It’s not that we didn’t reach safety standards, it’s because we didn’t get certified in time. The recertification process takes time,” he said.
An ICAO audit in 2015 found 33 significant safety concerns and determined that Thai airlines were not up to standards.
“ICAO auditors can’t just come in to a country and inspect on a whim. They have a schedule to stick to and airlines have queues to line up in, so we have to go in the slot they give us,” Jaiyavat said.
After a weeklong audit, private jet carrier Mjets was recertified Sept. 27.