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‘Aviation woes must be fixed’

Jul 07. 2016
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By SUCHAT SRITAMA
THE NATION

THAILAND stands a good chance of benefiting from the explosive growth in air traffic over the next decade because of its geographic location, but challenges are holding the country back, according to an aviation expert.

Arun Mishra, regional director of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), expressed his optimism on Thailand’s aviation potential, but said the country had to fix the sector’s infrastructure and personnel shortcomings.

Mishra said Thailand needed the right mentoring to achieve that.

Last year, ICAO red-flagged Thailand, warning the world that Thai-registered airlines did not meet international standards.

Mishra said an ICAO safety team would soon be dispatched to Thailand to follow up on the country’s response to safety issues. ICAO also plans to provide more guidelines for the safety audit.

Mishra affirmed that Thailand’s aviation industry would get the support it needed to enhance its human resources and operational quality.

He said the global aviation industry faced many challenges but was experiencing huge growth. In India and China alone, more than 200 airports were expected to open in the coming decade while Asean also needed more airports.

 “Aviation is growing everywhere. However, the major problem is the lack of aviation infrastructure, which needs urgent development,” he said.

According to the International Air Transport Association, airlines worldwide carried 3.6 billion passengers in 2015 and 52.2 million tonnes of cargo. It forecast the number of passengers would more than double to 7.4 billion by 2034. Of the total, China will account for 1.19 billion passengers.

Speaking at the same aviation conference as Mishra, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith noted that there was growing interest in Asia among tourists from the United States and Europe.

He is optimistic the Asean Economic Community will drive aviation growth in the region under the common open-sky policy.

Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul focused her speech at the event on Thailand’s attempt to emphasise “quality tourism” including sport, cruises, community tourism, and weddings and honeymoons.

Nitinai Sirismatthakarn, president of Airports of Thailand, which hosted the event, promised to upgrade all six airports under the company’s supervision.

From 2009 and 2015, he said, AOT signed sister-airport agreements with 11 organisations that operate 15 international airports in Japan, China, South Korea, Germany and the United States for joint training and services.

“We will work together and improve our facilities for the long term. AOT has also been asked to lead the development of small airports in the region,” he said.

The six airports under AOT’s supervision including Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang served 110 million passengers last year.

Nitinai said the slated upgrades would require a budget of Bt194 billion, enabling them to support aviation growth in Asean.

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