By SUCHAT SRITAMA
NOK AIR’S crisis is expected to hit tourism in the upcoming high season, but it could lead to improved aviation standards in the long term, key tourism bodies said.
Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said cancellation of Nok Air’s flights would have a negative impact on the entire tourism sector, particularly in the short term, as the country approaches the high season. He said many passengers had already suffered from the flight cancellations, as they were unable to travel or visit provinces as planned.
Furthermore, the need to cancel a total of 37 flights between February 14 and yesterday showed the airline’s inability to deal with the crisis and its poor internal management, he said.
“Nok Air’s crisis is killing the image of Thailand’s aviation sector. Thai tourism is approaching the high season. Many tourists and locals plan to travel but they may have to delay or shelve their plans.
“The flight cancellations affected the tourism business in major destinations such as Trang, Hat Yai, Chiang Rai and Surat Thani,” Ittirit said. However, TCT believes that aviation standards will be improved soon and for the long term if the airline can solve its problems.
Nok Air earlier announced that it would cancel 20 domestic flights scheduled for yesterday, to add to the abrupt cancellation of 17 flights on February 14 because of a pilot strike. Nok Air yesterday decided to pause more services from Don Mueang International Airport to Khon Kaen Airport from yesterday until Sunday.
Two other budget airlines, Thai Smile Airways and Thai AirAsia, will help carry passengers of the cancelled flights.
Charoen Wangananont, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), urged Nok Air and other airlines to prepare urgent measures to face crises like this.
The TCT and ATTA said domestic tourism would slow down through this month and possibly also suffer in April when the country celebrates the Songkran Festival.
Chula Sukmanop, director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), said that if more Nok Air pilots resigned, the airline would face a greater crisis.
He said that if Nok Air discontinued operations caused by a pilot shortage, as speculated, it would face huge costs.
The Nok Air case has alerted the CAAT to consider revoking licences of small airlines City Airways, Kan Air and Jet Asia Airways as they had racked up enormous debts.