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Seventeen new airlines still grounded amid uncertainty

Out of 48 airlines registered ahead of Suvarnabhumi Airport’s opening, at least 17 have been inactive without a fleet of their own and no plan to take their flights off the ground soon, said a source in the aviation industry.

Airlines had earlier been encouraged by bright prospects in the aviation industry, with Thailand getting a new airport to boost the business of regional airlines, the source said.

“However, some airlines delayed their business plans as domestic flights have now moved to Don Muang while the political and economic outlook has been battered heavily in the past two years,” the source said.

According to the latest data of the Department of Civil Aviation this month, among the inactive 17 airlines are Neo Siam Airways, which received a licence from the department in 2004. The firm is located in Chiang Rai province but has made no further move.

Thai Star Airlines, which planned both scheduled and charter flights within the country, also shelved its business plans.

Holiday Airline, initially planned for international charter flights and received a licence last year, but has yet to begin operations.

Asian Aero Space Service, established as a charter operation last year, is still waiting to take off.

Jet Go International, planned as an international cargo airline, has not yet started operations.

Southern Airways is quiet despite its plan to run charter flights, as is Sriracha Aviation.

Akara Design and Development is still waiting to operate airships for the tourist trade while Mong Fah, a non-scheduled helicopter service, is still on paper. Co Co Sea Plane is in the same situation despite its plan to serve tourists among the major islands in the Southern region.

Air Phoenix, set to fly international scheduled flights and temporary charter flights, is also quiet as is Sawasdee Airways, registered for the same purpose.

Earth Wind and Fly, registered in Chiang Mai, is still waiting to operate airships for tourists in the northern region.

Other inoperative airlines are Thai Cargo Airlines for cargo and domestic scheduled flights, and Sun Freight Logistic for international chartered cargo. Finally, still on paper is Bangkok Helicopter Service.

The source said that some of these airlines are expected to start service when the country’s economy turns better or the tourism industry goes on the rebound. “These new operators worry about returns on their investment, so they are still waiting,” the source said.

Another worry for the airline industry is the September 16 crash of the One-Two-Go flight at Phuket International Airport, which killed 89 passengers.

Trang Tourism Association president Vichai Ratanamani said the incident would not effect tourism in Trang province as many tourists travel to the province by land.

“So far, there are no cancellations for Trang,” said Trang Airport director Athaya Lapmak.

Moreover, two low cost airlines are planning to increase their flights.

Nok Air plans to add to its Bangkok-Hanoi route soon while Thai AirAsia will increase domestic and international routes.

Transport Minister Thira Haocharoen said yesterday that the Civil Aviation Department has launched an inspection into the operating standards of all airlines, both mainstream and low-cost. Today, the department will convene a meeting with all aviation-related organisations. Safety standards will be discussed to restore travellers’ confidence in the Thai aviation industry.

Suchat Sritama

The Nation

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