Thailand Scrambles To Lift International Flight Bans

Thailand is in a mad dash to remove international flight bans that have been placed on some of their airline carriers over noted safety issues.

The country’s aviation board was rocked with the recent news that came in the form of official policy notifications from the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. This new policy restricts the amount of low-cost carriers flying into the country from Thailand over what has already been allotted to the nation. To that end, South Korea has also placed these restrictions on Thai air carriers, but opted to do so without any formal statement. Both countries enacted these flight bans due to serious concerns over reports from the International Civil Aviation Organization that found that Thailand didn’t meet the global body’s criteria with regards to flight safety in some areas. With rumblings that could suggest that Singapore and even China could see fit to inflict these same restrictions as well, this has become a worrisome situation for Thailand and all interested travelers.

The ban’s immediate effect has caused havoc on a nation that derives a great deal of their economy from tourism. Thailand’s recent political shakeup that saw Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha come to power in a military coup in May 2014 caused a tourism slowdown, and so tour operators there saw an increase in travel from other Southeast Asian countries. The ban comes in just as Thailand has begun preparations for the New Year’s festival of Songkran, which spans from April 13th to April 15th and is a hefty draw for travelers across the world. Low-cost air carriers are primarily affected, in particular Thai AirAsiaX and NokScoot. NokScoot has already begun to implement a contingency plan that would allow previously booked passengers flying to Sapporo, Japan to travel on a plane registered via Singaporean guidelines.

Tourism agencies in Thailand, as a result of the bans, are now forced to mark up prices on pre-existing packages to Japan and South Korea. Smaller agencies fear that the current conditions would put them out of business. An earlier precedent of how such bans could affect a country’s tourism lies in Indonesia, which saw 51 of their air carriers banned from entering European Union Nations in 2007. The ban was lifted two years later. General Prayuth has stated that military powers will be used to help speed along the needed changes to rectify the safety issues, and he has also tasked the ambassador to Japan to encourage more discussion on the issue with the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau.