AoT bans lanterns near airports for upcoming festivals

PHOTO: The AoT warns of danger, banning lanterns in six airport zones. (via Yoga Wine Travel)

Loy Krathong is upon us, and with it, Yi Peng, the lantern festival. Thousands of lighter-than-air lanterns drift up into the sky in a peaceful show for celebrating onlookers. But the Airports of Thailand (AoT) have issued a reminder warning that flying lanterns are strictly banned in the areas around the six main airports in Thailand.

As beautiful and tranquil as the lantern-filled sky can be, unregulated flying objects can be a major hazard to both inbound and outbound flights if they drift into airport flight paths. The AoT circulated the warning before the festival on Tuesday. They say that all flying objects – including lanterns, rockets, balloons, and drones – are strictly prohibited in the major airports’ air navigation safety zones.

The cautioning notification mentioned the six main airports of Thailand. Bangkok’s primary and secondary airports, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang International Airport were included. Chiang Mai Airport and Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang Airport in the north were also listed as lantern no-fly zones. In the south, Phuket International Airport and Hat Yai Airport in Songkhla rounded out the list.

The AoT reminds everyone that the air navigation safety zone is a loosely defined area in the vicinity of the area where lanterns could have dangerous or deadly effects on planes. The 2019 Aviation Act prohibits small objects like lanterns and drones from being set aloft in these areas. The act also includes laser beams as flashing powerful lights into the sky can harm a pilot’s vision and cause accidents.

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Chiang Mai has long been the main hub for Yi Peng. Thousands of lanterns are released into the sky simultaneously, creating the famous sea of lights in the sky we see in photos all the time. It might be one of Thailand’s most Instagrammable sights. But it is also a major safety hazard.

This year, Chiang Mai International Airport has rescheduled 77 flights to avoid danger from flying objects during the Lantern Festival between November 8 and 9. The airport has cancelled 53 flights and rescheduled 24 to avoid lanterns. They are offering six special flights to support passengers, according to The Bangkok Post.

With more lanterns released in Chiang Mai than anywhere else in Thailand, authorities will set up extra surveillance in several other districts in the province. Hang Dong, Mae Rim, Muang, San Sai, San Patong, and Saraphi districts will all be under close watch.

The AoT warned that launching lanterns in these restricted zones is a serious crime with serious consequences. Under the Aviation Act, violators can be issued a fine of up to 200,000 baht. They can also be sentenced to a maximum of five years in prison.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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