SEOUL: A Phuket Air jumbo jet has been seized in South Korea after the carrier’s owner, Phuket Airlines Co Ltd, allegedly failed to settle debts owed to its local sales agent.
The Nation in Bangkok reported August 23 that the Boeing 747-300 had been impounded at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.
The aircraft had initially been banned from flying back to Bangkok from Incheon on August 10 after the company failed to pay 237.6 million won (about 9.25 million baht) in maintenance and other service fees.
Three days later the debt was settled. But minutes before the aircraft’s planned return to Bangkok on Friday, Phuket Airlines was hit by a separate lawsuit, and the 747 was again impounded by the South Korean authorities.
The Korea Times said a court had approved the provisional seizure of a Phuket Air plane, a move requested by its local sales agent TV Club, when the airline allegedly failed to honor debts owed to TV Club after it abruptly withdrew operations from Korea last month.
The agent is claiming 1.22 billion won (47 million baht) in damages for losses it says were sustained because of the airline’s decision to suspend flights between Incheon and Phuket in July.
It was the first time a commercial airliner had been seized in South Korea, the newspaper added.
According to the ruling, Phuket Air needs to apply for a permit to fly out of the country after depositing the money owed with the court. The aircraft will remain at Incheon International Airport until Phuket Airlines does so.
Phuket Air has been plagued with problems since April, when an aircraft was prevented from leaving Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates after passengers saw fuel pouring from a wing. The company said at the time that the wing had been “over-filled” with fuel.
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, and a plane was 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 ban on flying from Amsterdam had robbed its Bali service of “feeder” flights.
Since the beginning of August, Phuket Airlines has also owed several hundred thousand taka in taxes, landing charges, and equipment rental at Chittagong Airport to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Biman Airlines.
Repeated attempts by the Gazette to contact Phuket Air for comment were unsuccessful.
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