Thailand’s aviation hub dreams delayed by global supply issues

Image courtesy of Pattaya Mail

Thailand’s ambition to become the leading aviation hub in the region by 2030 may face significant delays due to global supply chain disruptions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The country needs to remove unnecessary regulations and accelerate digitalisation efforts to improve aviation efficiency.

IATA‘s Director-General, Willie Walsh expressed his views at the group’s annual general meeting in Dubai.

“Thailand can achieve its ambition, but it will probably take longer than 2030.”

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin pledged to make Thailand the region’s leading aviation hub by 2030 as part of the Ignite Thailand vision.

Walsh acknowledged Thailand’s popularity as a tourist destination but noted that achieving this status by the proposed timeline would require substantial long-term investments that might exceed the 2030 milestone.

One major obstacle is the difficulty in acquiring new aircraft, especially wide-body jets from top manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing.

Waiting period

Walsh cited his experience as the former chief executive of British Airways, mentioning that the lead time for orders of Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 jets used to be four to five years.

“Back in 2007, we never had any concerns about getting in the queue. It was pretty clear we would get the aircraft we ordered today, you can try to order an aircraft, but you are going to wait for a long time.”

IATA reports that 1,583 aircraft will be delivered globally in 2024. However, IATA’s Senior Vice-President of sustainability and chief economist, Marie Owens Thomsen noted that the number of jet deliveries has been reduced by about 150 due to delays across the supply chain, including aircraft, engines, and parts.

These 150 delayed jets are expected to be added to the 2025 tally, with deliveries next year estimated at 2,293. Thomsen described this as a fingers-crossed scenario, given the uncertainty about how production lines will catch up with the surging demand.

IATA’s Regional Vice President for North Asia and ad-interim for Asia-Pacific, Xie Xingquan, highlighted several regulatory risks in Thailand. The Thai government is drafting a revised consumer protection law to address flight delays, cancellations, denied boarding, and negligence of disabled passengers.

These regulations will apply to both Thai and foreign carriers, imposing requirements similar to Europe’s EU 261 rules. Xie mentioned that IATA has already communicated with the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand, urging the government to consider the positions of airlines to ensure shared accountability.

Government efforts

“It is possible for any destination in Asia-Pacific to become a tourism and aviation hub, depending on government efforts and how attractive the airports are to airlines.”

Xie cited the Middle East as an example, where a significant transformation turned the desert into an international hub.

“I think it’s possible for Thailand, but it won’t be easy.”

The latest visa-free scheme allowing extended stays for 93 countries is only part of the process. Other essential factors include offering incentives such as reduced landing fees and excise taxes, as well as accelerating the digitalisation of passenger processing and cargo logistics for improved efficiency.

Airports of Thailand (AoT) have started implementing automatic channels for international travellers departing from some airports to speed up immigration.

Safety and mitigation of turbulence impacts were also highlighted at the IATA summit, following a recent incident involving a Singapore Airlines flight experiencing severe turbulence.

In 2018, IATA launched the Turbulence Aware platform to collect real-time data from airlines and send details to other aircraft, enabling them to be aware of turbulence locations. Currently, 21 airlines are feeding data into the platform, which includes 150 million turbulence reports, reported Bangkok Post.

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Ryan Turner

Ryan is a journalism student from Mahidol University with a passion for history, writing and delivering news content with a rich storytelling narrative.

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