Thai Transport Ministry orders budget carriers to play fair


BANGKOK, Thailand – Low-cost airlines must provide food and drinks or ticket refunds to delayed passengers under a Transport Ministry regulation to protect the rights of passengers.

Permanent secretary for transport Supoj Saplom said yesterday that the ministry had recently asked all budget airlines operating domestic routes to inform passengers about their rights in the event of flight delays.

Airlines are also required to provide disabled passengers with wheelchairs without extra fees. The carriers must provide consumer protection agencies with details of their minimum and maximum fares and show the details on their websites, said Mr Supoj.

Under the ministry’s regulation, a low-cost airline must serve meals and drinks and provide communication services to passengers if flights are delayed more than two hours but not exceeding three hours.

The airline must give ticket refunds if passengers do not want to board delayed flights.

If the airline wants to make refunds in the form of vouchers or other items, it must receive consent from affected passengers.

If a flight is delayed by up to five hours, the airline must provide a replacement flight or a flight to the nearest destination with no additional cost, or repay the difference if the replacement fare is cheaper. Passengers must also be served with food and drinks.

If a flight is delayed for more than five hours, passengers are entitled to compensation of 600 baht from the airline. But there are exceptions if delays are caused by a political situation, weather conditions or work stoppages.

Mr Supoj said the regulation was issued following complaints from many passengers about repeated flight delays, unfair ticket prices and extra fees charged by budget airlines.

The permanent secretary has instructed the Civil Aviation Department to strictly enforce the regulation to make sure all budget airlines operating domestic routes abide by it and that the rights of passengers are protected.

“Over the past years, several airlines have collected many extra fees. This causes budget airline passengers to pay fares higher than those charged by the national carrier, Thai Airways International,” said Mr Supoj.

The problem of flight delays has gradually improved since two major budget airlines _ Thai AirAsia and Nok Air _ increased the number of their planes.

The ministry has asked deputy permanent secretary Sornsak Saensombat to come up with urgent measures to make Thailand’s 28 airports more profitable. Previous studies have proposed allowing the private sector to take over management of the airports or dividing the airports into zones, with firms being hired to manage each zone.