South Korea bans Thai airlines over safety concerns

South Korea bans Thai airlines over safety concerns

South Korea has started banning charter flights from Thailand over safety concerns after Thai negotiators from the Civil Aviation Department failed to convince officials to ease restrictions.

A source in the Civil Aviation Department said yesterday that the ban began last Saturday.

A Thai civil aviation team was involved in the first round of talks with South Korean civil aviation authorities last week.

The negotiation centred on the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) safety concerns about charter flights operated by Thailand-registered airlines.

"Earlier, South Korea unofficially banned charter flights from Thailand entering the country. But after the negotiation on April 4, the Civil Aviation Department was officially informed of the ban. There will be no relaxing of the restriction like Japan did on April 2," the source said.

The Thai negotiators failed to convince South Korean aviation authorities to ease flight restrictions on Thai airlines after the ICAO voiced safety concerns, according to Civil Aviation Department director general Somchai Piputwat.

Somchai said this would result in charter flights from Thailand being banned from flying to South Korea, starting this month, the public broadcaster Thai PBS quoted him as saying.

The Civil Aviation Department chief said the South Koreans had banned three Thai airlines: Asia Atlantic, Jet Asia and Asian Air.

He said about 10,000 passengers who were scheduled to fly to South Korea or leave South Korea in April would be affected, Thai PBS reported.

Regular flights from Thailand will not be affected although an increase in flights will not be permitted, the Civil Aviation Department chief was quoted as saying.

Despite of the ban, he said, South Korean civil aviation authorities understood the problem faced by Thailand. And the Kingdom will continue to try and persuade the South Koreans to relax the restriction in the same way the Japanese authorities did, he added.

On Friday, Transport Minister Prajin Junthong said that Japan's civil aviation agency agreed to temporarily lift a ban preventing Thailand-registered airlines from operating charter flights to Japan from April 11 to May 31.

The safety concerns were raised in late March during the ICAO's audit of the Civil Aviation Department, which was given a 90-day grace period to comply with international standards.

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