BRUSSELS: Phuket Air has been included in a list of 93 passenger and cargo airlines barred from European Union countries and Switzerland, on safety grounds.
It is one of only two airline in East Asia included in the list, the other being North Korea’s Air Koryo. Most of the list, made public on Wednesday, comprises airlines from Africa, with a sprinkling from Central Asia and one from Bangladesh.
The European Commission (EC) has also advised passengers to avoid flying with these airlines elsewhere in the world.
Jacques Barrot, the EC Vice-President responsible for transport, explained, “The European Union now has a coherent approach to banning airlines. This blacklist will keep dubious airlines out of Europe. It will also make sure that all airlines operating in Europe’s sky meet the highest safety standards.”
The list, issued on Wednesday, is a first step, the EC noted in an official release. “The list will be updated as often as is necessary and at least every three months.”
Airlines may be added to the list at the request of European Union member states, or by the EC itself. Airlines may also apply to be taken off the list if they believe that their safety standards have been improved to meet EC requirements.
Contacted by the Gazette today, a spokesperson for the airline said that management could give no comment on the EC announcement at this point.
Phuket Air began to have problems with its safety image in April last year when passengers aboard one of its Boeing 747s bound for London forced a takeoff to be aborted after seeing fuel pouring from a wing tank after a refueling stop in Sharjah.
A few days later another flight was abandoned after it had to turn back to London with a hydraulics problem.
Phuket Air dumped its London route and attempted to switch instead to Amsterdam, but the Dutch authorities barred a flight from taking off after it was discovered that emergency lighting inside the aircraft was not working properly. There were also questions over the pilot’s papers.
In May, the airline was barred from Dutch and British airspace. In August it had an aircraft seized in South Korea for non-payment of airport fees and in the same month it was barred from France.
By the end of August, Phuket air had almost withdrawn from the international market, serving only one international route, between Bangkok and Yangon.
In September, one of its smaller aircraft skidded off the end of the runway at Tak airport, in northern Thailand. No one was injured, but one passenger, Senator Udon Tantisunthorn, suggested the crash might have been caused by pilot error. “If you ask me, the plane should have touched down at the beginning of the runway rather than around the middle,” he said.
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