Following the downgrading of its safety rating by the FAA from category 1 to category 2 earlier this month, effectively banning Thai carriers from opening new routes to the US, some feared that EASA would be the next regulator to follow suit by red flagging Thailand’s airlines.
While its omission from the list was no doubt met with a sigh of relief from Thailand’s aviation authorities fearful of imposed restrictions and flight bans over European skies, both EASA and the EC didn't completely let Thailand off the hook.
The EC stated that future aviation developments in Thailand would be under their watchful eye, and warned: “If the protection of air passengers against safety risks so requires, the Commission could then propose to include one or more air carriers from Thailand on the Air Safety List.”
After escaping inclusion on a list which included airlines everywhere from Iran to Mozambique, Thailand expressed its encouragement at the decision, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha describing it as a sign that the country was on the right track.
He reaffirmed his belief that the newly-formed aviation agency, the Office of Civil Aviation, will oversee a general improvement in the country’s safety standards and repair its damaged reputation.
Areas earmarked for improvement include tackling the shortage of safety certification professionals, which the office plans to rectify by training domestic personnel while utilising certification specialists from abroad.
While there certainly appears to be a will for driving up Thailand’s aviation standards, ultimately, the actions of the government will be judged on whether aviation regulators deem the country to have improved its standards in the form of improving ratings and lifting red flags.
Until this becomes reality, the jury is out.