PARIS: Problem-plagued Phuket Air hit another hurdle this week when it was revealed that it has been banned from flying into France since June 4 on safety grounds. The Bangkok-based carrier has already been barred from British and Dutch airspace.
The French civil aviation authority (Délégation Générale de l’Aviation Civile – DGAC) website included Phuket Airlines in a list of six international carriers that have been prevented from flying into France for the past three months. The news was published on August 29.
Reacting to this latest setback, the management of Phuket Airlines Co, the parent company in Bangkok, questioned the DGAC decision.
“We really don’t understand what is the meaning of ‘unsafe’,” Capt Chawanit Chiamcharoenvut, the carrier’s Executive Vice President, told journalists.
“Unsafe for operations or unsafe for what? Because we have never had a serious incident or accident, so I would like to ask the [French] authorities: what is the meaning of unsafe?”
He said the company is now working with Boeing, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to improve safety through pilot and personnel training.
Capt Chawanit admitted that the French ban will probably have “some impact” on Phuket Air’s image, although he said operations will not be directly affected because the company has not operated to Europe since April and does it intend to reintroduce European flights.
The only international routes currently flown by Phuket Air are chartered flights to Myanmar and Japan. “Those flights don’t have any problem,” Capt Chawanit said August 29.
France decided to publish the names of airlines banned for safety reasons after the August 16 crash in Venezuela of a West Caribbean Airways plane that killed all 160 people on board, including 152 French tourists.
“The airlines on the blacklist cannot operate flights in any French airport,” Maxime Coffin, head of security checks at DGAC, told a news conference in Paris. “Its publication is a warning to other airlines: if they are not rigorous enough, they could find themselves on the list.”
It has not been a good year for Phuket Air. One of the company’s Boeing 747s has been impounded at Incheon Airport in South Korea twice since August 10, the first time for non-payment of maintenance and other service fees and then again on August 23 in a legal dispute with its local sales agent.
In April, a Phuket Air 747 was prevented from leaving Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates after passengers saw fuel pouring from a wing.
Later, a Bangkok-bound flight had to return to London after developing hydraulics problems, and the airline was banned from flying into the UK and the Netherlands after safety inspectors found “serious” faults on aircraft. A Phuket Air plane was also impounded at London’s Gatwick Airport for non-payment of landing fees.
The company then canceled its Bangkok-Bali route, saying that passenger numbers had slumped because the Dutch ban had robbed its Bali service of “feeder” flights.
Since the beginning of August, Phuket Airlines has also owed to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Biman Airlines several hundred thousand taka, the Bangladeshi currency, in taxes, landing charges, and equipment rental fees incurred at Chittagong Airport.
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