Thai Pilots Association opposes eased restrictions for foreign pilots

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

The Thai Pilots Association vehemently opposed a controversial government proposal to ease restrictions on foreign pilots flying with Thai carriers temporarily.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin recently pinpointed the slow resumption of flights as a significant hurdle for Thailand’s tourism sector. Post-pandemic personnel shortages are a global issue, but the prime minister believes Thailand needs a quick fix. During a visit to Agoda’s Thai offices, Srettha urged airlines to ramp up their operations to help revive tourism.

“We will discuss this issue with the Ministry of Labour to seek a possible solution, including lifting this restriction temporarily.”

However, the Thai Pilots Association isn’t having it. Teerawat Angkasakulkiat, president of the association, firmly rejected the idea. He explained that the pandemic forced airlines to furlough numerous Thai pilots and halt hiring new graduates.

“Thailand has around 1,200 student pilots who still cannot find a job.”

According to Teerawat, experienced pilots laid off during the pandemic haven’t returned to the cockpit because airlines haven’t fully recovered their fleets. He warned that allowing foreign pilots might save time, but it would cost Thai pilots their jobs.

Pre-pandemic, airlines sponsored pilots for nine-month training programmes to obtain specific aircraft licences, bearing all related costs. However, the post-pandemic landscape has shifted, with some airlines adopting a pay-to-fly scheme. This scheme, popular among European carriers, requires new graduates to pay between 1.7 million to 3.5 million baht for training in exchange for jobs.

Teerawat slammed this scheme as unfair, burdening new graduates with huge financial costs. He emphasised that the Thai Aviation Academy produces highly trained pilots ready for commercial flights, arguing that expanding fleets will eventually allow time to train new pilots, reported Bangkok Post.

“We should prioritise our student pilots. There is no need to open this job to foreigners.”

In related news, a Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) pilot reported a close encounter with a firework rocket that soared almost 8,000 feet, forcing evasive manoeuvres to avoid a potential disaster.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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