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Thailand’s seven airlines plead for soft loans promised to them last year

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The Thai Airlines Association, led by president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth and CEOs of all seven airline members, held a virtual press conference after all domestic flights were officially suspended as of Wednesday.

The objective of the conference was to follow up on the soft loans the government had earlier promised to allocate to all seven airlines. The request for the loans had been placed 478 days ago since the beginning of the outbreak in March last year. They also met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on August 28, 2020, and again sent a follow-up letter in May this year. Yet there has been no progress.

In desperation, the association also slashed the amount requested from 24 billion baht to 5 billion baht, which will only allow the seven airlines to retain their workforce of about 20,000 people.

With the Covid-19 crisis worsening, the government has imposed travel restrictions, requiring the temporary suspension of all flights entering or exiting the 13 dark-red provinces, including Bangkok.

As a result, more than 170 aircraft have been grounded. However, the airlines must still bear the cost of employment totalling more than 900 million baht per month, not to mention continued operations and maintenance costs.

The association said that since all seven airlines have been experiencing continuous losses, they cannot bear the cost burden if they don’t receive urgent help and remedies from the government.

Failure to have the needed support will affect future services and employment, with the spectre of significant disruption to restarting the airline industry in the future.

Hence, the association said, it is pleading with the government to urgently provide the requested soft loans to ease the looming damaging impact on eventual economic recovery.

Thailand’s tourism sector relies heavily on the aviation business, which is on the brink of dying if nothing is forthcoming from the government. Continued lack of action will have a major impact on the country’s tourism industry in general, it said.

“More than a year and a half has passed since the spread of Covid-19. All the while, seven airlines have been doing their best to help adjust their operations to simply survive and pull through this difficult situation. We fervently hope the government will now help expedite the approval process for soft loans as soon as possible because otherwise, we will soon be breathing our last breath,” Puttipong said.

Published : July 21, 2021

By : The Nation