BANGKOK: Phuket Airlines, recently blacklisted by the European Commission (EC) as one of 93 airlines barred from flying to the European Union (EU) and Switzerland, is confident that it will be reinstated soon, a senior official of the airline said today.
As if to reinforce that confidence, the Gazette has learned that Phuket Airlines has applied to launch another airline, to be called Holiday Airlines. The application is currently being considered by the Thai Aviation Department (TAD).
Phuket Airlines was included in the EU ban list on safety grounds. It is one of only two airlines in East Asia banned, the other being North Korea’s Air Koryo.
The European Commission (EC) has also advised passengers to avoid flying with the 93 airlines anywhere else in the world.
Grp Capt Pattana Tareekes, Phuket Air’s Vice-President, Administration, told the Gazette in an exclusive interview today, “We realize that safety is the most important part of being in the aviation business and we try to improve constantly.
“We are ready to let [EC inspectors] audit our aircraft and we have already let the Aviation Department invite the EC to conduct a safety audit.
“The EC list is to be revised every three months and we want to get off it as fast as possible; it would be good if they could remove us earlier than that,” Capt Pattana said.
“It makes us very sad that this has happened,” he added, “because it has given us a negative image worldwide, and that has seriously affected our business.”
However, the airline’s management is not about to give up, he said. “We will prove that we are an international-standard airline and, when the EU team comes here, I believe we will pass their audit.”
The TAD supports Phuket Airlines’s contention that it should be removed from the blacklist. Kanika Khemmawuthanond, the TAD’s Deputy Director-General, told the Gazette yesterday that, after the airline was barred from the UK and the Netherlands, her department had ordered it to improve its safety, and had kept a close eye on it.
“Phuket Airlines has employed Air France to revamp all systems, especially those relating to safety, to bring them up to international standards. We have checked on progress and believe that the airline is now up to standard, and we have invited the EC to send inspectors to check.
“Unfortunately, at the time when the papers were on their way to Europe, at the beginning of March, the 25 member-countries of EU were meeting [to decide which airlines should be included in the blacklist].”
She noted that Phuket Airlines’ entry in the blacklist was marked by an asterisk, indicating that it would be audited soon to see whether it should be removed from the list.
“The EC knew that we were working to fix Phuket Airlines’ safety systems – that is why they marked the entry with an asterisk.
“I cannot say for sure that the airline will pass the next audit, but the airline is ready for it and I believe we have done the best that we could – it should pass,” K. Kanika added.
Referring to Phuket Airlines’ application to register Holiday Airlines, she said, “The TAD committee is checking the documents now to decide whether to allow it or not. In fact, we are examining seven or eight such applications.”
Capt Pattana declined to make any comment on the application.
The full EC blacklist can be seen here.
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