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Gov suspends Patong seaplane service



PHUKET: Citing complaints of noise pollution and threats to public safety, Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit yesterday ordered Destination Air to stop its seaplane shuttle flights to and from Patong Bay until the company complies with all Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) regulations.

At a two-hour meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday, Gov Niran called a halt to the flights after conferring with three representatives from the DCA as well as hotel managers leading the opposition to the flights and local officials.

The DCA representatives and Gov Niran noted that although Destination Air was issued a permit to operate non-scheduled flights to several destinations along the Andaman Coast until 2011, the permit granted by the DCA was based on an Initial Environmental Evaluation (IEE) to operate in a marine national park in Krabi.

DCA Deputy Director-General Wuthichai Singhamanee admitted that the DCA was unaware of actual conditions in Patong when it granted the permit.

Officials in Bangkok knew it was a popular tourist destination but had no idea how densely populated it actually was, K. Wuthichai said.

Destination Air’s permit specifies several conditions of operation, including the use of safety buoys to mark landing and takeoff zones and the obligation to ferry passengers from plane to shore by boat, which must also warn other vessels in the area before landings and takeoffs.

Instead, there was solid evidence that the planes have been flying low over resorts before landing, then taxiing to a floating dock, K. Wuthichai said.

The DCA may suspend the permit if the carrier is found to be violating the conditions under which the permit was granted, he said.

Destination Air’s listing of a flight schedule on its website and promotional brochures was also a problem because Destination Air’s permit was granted strictly for non-scheduled flights, K. Wuthichai added.

Gov Niran said he decided to halt the flights until Destination Air can prove it will comply with all DCA conditions.

The carrier can resume its service to Patong after it submits a new IEE for its operations in the area and convinces the DCA that it will abide by all the terms listed in its flight permit, he said.


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