BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – A brief notice was transferred last Monday by Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) stating that starting July 22, Orient Thai Airline and its low-cost subsidiary One-Two-Go have to cease their operations for 30 days because of poor safety standards.
A One-Two-Go MD-80 aircraft crashed last September in Phuket, killing 90 people. A petition coming mostly from families of the victims and former One-Two-Go pilots has been asking Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to conduct a proper investigation. Their letter was published in Thai newspapers early July and followed a detailed TV investigation by Australia’s Channel 9. The TV reporter found serious illegalities in the way the airline was managed. The report showed that corruption of pilots, falsification of documents and the breach of rules conducted to the catastrophe at Phuket airport.
Responsibility of the Thai Civil Aviation is also raised in the report. None of One-Two-Go MD80-aircraft was grounded following the crash. A worrying absence of decision occurred already in 2005 following maintenance troubles by another airline, Phuket Air. Of Phuket Air fleet was finally grounded (due to financial reasons), its license was never removed by authorities despite its poor safety performance.
As families of the victims in the United States will officially sue the airline in front of US courts, as the US civil aviation is looking to downgrade safety certification of Thai carriers, the DCA has been put under pressure to act efficiently.
At a press conference on Monday, Civil Aviation Department Director-General Chaisak Angkasuwan said that Orient Thai and One-Two-Go will face within two weeks criminal suits against their pilots, inspectors and the companies following violation of the law. The decision, however, came to late: One-Two-GO chairman Udom Tantiprasongchai announced to suspend all air transport activities until September 15 for financial restructuring and mounting losses. Udom explained to Thai journalists that 70 percent of its costs are now swallowed by fuel purchase as both Orient Thai and its subsidiary One-Two-Go are equipped with old aircraft (B747 or MD-80). It is however dubious to see the airline resuming anytime soon its operation.
One-Two-Go is not the only airline to suffer of high fuel prices. Thailand’s two other low-cost carriers Nok Air and Thai AirAsia are facing rough times. They both responded by cutting and rescheduling flights and at stopping a fare war.
Nok Air is losing millions of Baht. Rumors circulated already about an airline’s demises but its shareholders –including Thai Airways- injected recently some cash to help the airline to turn around the corner. Nok Air already suspended its flights to Bangalore, Chiang Rai, Hanoi, Krabi and Ubon Ratchathani. The airline will also reduce its fleet by half.
Thai AirAsia suspended its flights to Xiamen and has been approaching corporation to encourage them to fly more on its routes. The airline has also launched a compensation scheme paying 1,800 baht for passengers delayed by more than three hours.
Another airline, Krabi Air, announced earlier in May to delay its launch as a schedule carrier to Europe. Instead, Krabi Air would only fly on a charter basis this winter.