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Thai Aviation

Prime Minister Abhisit committed to fixing Thailand aviation woes

StĂ©phane Hanot  Feb 09, 2009

BANGKOK (eTN) - Less than two months after taking office, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has expressed that he is committed to solving Thai Airways financial troubles and security problems at major Thai airports. And more surprising, without too many concessions to the political establishment.

Abhisit Vejjajiva might sometimes believe that he is not only Thailand prime minister but also chief of the Civil Aviation Department. Only eight weeks in the office, he already had to take many decisions on ways to help Thai Airways and Airports of Thailand shaking their tarnished reputation.

The Ministry of Finance has recently expressed its concern on political interference in the airline’s management which is seen as a major cause to Thai inability to compete efficiently. “Thai needs good management, corporate governance and professionalism. It also has the right to tell politicians not to meddle with it,” declared Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij.

Thai has been asked to come up with a business plan in early February. Thai already submitted its preliminary business plan first draft with the main focus being increased cash flows, improving asset management and liquidity. The second stage is to boost revenues by improving operational efficiency as well as sprucing up the product and service quality. The third stage would then be a complete review of the airline’s organization.

However, the minister of transport rejected initially the first draft dubbed as insufficient. Transport Minister Sopon Zarum wants also the airline to shed away benefits to employees such as free tickets or allowances for executives and the board of directors. The definitive version will be submitted by the end of February. Thai could lose up to US$400 million in 2008, according to brokers Globlex Securities.

Proactive security measures have also be adopted last week for Thailand’s major airports including Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. The draft bill follows Abhisit promise not to see the airport’s being seized by group of political protesters. The new law give finally to AOT the power to enforce law and orders at airports in case of traffic disruption due to protest. AOT will be able to detain eventual protesters and handling them over to police forces. Controls will also be imposed for all entering vehicles at new checkpoints.

Transport Minister Sopon Zarum will be responsible for enforcing this new law. He will also be authorized to control the airport, ensure convenience for airport users, and provide security for the aviation business. Controls will also be conducted on people coming inside the passengers terminal area. A monitoring center will also look at ensure the same level of security all over public and restricted areas.

In another development, the Abhisit government wants also to revert previous policy of operating two different airports in the Bangkok area to alleviate congestion at Suvarnabhumi. The government is now convinced that all international and domestic flights should be accommodated under one roof to improve passengers’ convenience.

The revived one- airport policy could become a reality before the summer or at latest before year-end. Low-cost carrier Nok Air already protested against this decision, as it would burden the airline with additional costs for a new transfer. However, Thai Airways already announced to retransfer all its flights from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi by the end of March.

Prime Minister Abhisit committed to fixing Thailand aviation woes

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