Thailand Fails FAA Safety Audit… Again

Filed Under: Thai

A Category 1 safety rating with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is something that a lot of countries want. In order to be able to operate nonstop flights to/from the US, that country needs a Category 1 rating.

For example, this is something that Vietnam recently achieved, as Vietnam Airlines is looking to eventually offer nonstop flights to the US.

Vietnam Airlines 787

Thailand lost their Category 1 rating with the FAA in 2015, when the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) found a lot of concerns following an audit. This audit temporarily caused China, Japan, and South Korea, to ban Thai airlines from operating charter flights or adding new service to their countries.

Well, Thailand has been trying to regain their Category 1 rating with the FAA. It’s not entirely clear if they want this just so that they don’t run into issues in the future, or if a Thai airline actually intends to add flights to the US imminently (I know Thai Airways has talked about it, but it still seems unlikely to me).

Well, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) is now reporting that they had FAA inspectors in Thailand February 11 through 15, 2019, to assess if safety was up to ICAO standards.

The findings? Thailand failed, and 26 safety issues were found. Officials haven’t elaborated on what those failures are, though they’re apparently already working on addressing the shortcomings.

It’s quite embarrassing to have the inspectors over in hopes of gaining a Category 1 rating, only to have that many safety issues discovered.

Now, I think it’s important to clarify that this doesn’t mean you should be scared to fly airlines in Thailand (though some are certainly more reputable than others). These ratings are based on the overall safety standards of the country, unrelated to any particular airline.

Thai Airways 747

So I’d continue to fly Thai Airways without hesitation, as I still think they’re a safe airline. It’s just that the country doesn’t have the systems and policies in place that they need to.

I’ll be curious if Thailand actually succeeds the next time they have inspectors in the country…

  1. How absurd! I guess they didn’t pay the FAA the appropriate “fee”. Another example of American hyprocricy and corruption at work to keep competition away from the US3

  2. @Dennis,
    So Vietnam airlines paid US, and US is ok with competition from Vietnam, but not Thailand? Please elaborate.

  3. If cabin crew can’t even play the safety video or do pre-takeoff and landing checks on a Thai Airways flight, they don’t deserve the safety audit…

    (this wasn’t even a one-off experience, I got a bunch of messages from people saying they thought they were the only ones)

  4. @Alvin, I really don’t care about the safety theater of absurd safety videos or bringing seats forward — that stuff is about bureaucracy and not safety. I’m interested to know though if real safety issues such as equipment, maintenance, and pilot training are implicated in this audit.

  5. @Mak, you wouldn’t know the “real” issues if you are the inspectors yourselves. However, as a common traveler , you can tell how sloppy a company is by how they do simple routine jobs. Do you think they would be much more up to job on the real issues when they cannot following simple regular routines?

  6. The FAA takes this seriously and this is not some random employee targeting the airline. If there are 26 safety violations and this is a repeated failure there are some serious issues going on at Thai and the FAA does not see them fit to fly to the U.S. until they are addressed. Face it, Thai is not the carrier they were years ago.

    While I do not agree with all the FAA’s decisions, an example being allowing airlines and manufacturers too much time to fix airworthiness directives, I do believe that they have our safety and well being at heart and are true professionals.

    As a side note it’s concerning as they also provide training and maintenance for other carriers. Druk Air is an example whose pilots are all trained at Thai and planes are serviced there.

    I would not put my daughter on Thai at all right now. Further, I think it’s the responsibility of Star Alliance to step up and offer assistance, do their own audit and see the changes made or remove them as a Star Alliance carrier. Delta did this with Korean years back to assist them with a change in their CRM and it did wonders for the airline’s improved safety culture.

  7. I should add, this is assuming that Thai is at the heart of the violations. While it’s directed to the country I am assuming that it is focused more towards Thai given the near monopoly they have in Thailand.

  8. @Sung, although the US lost the war, their attempted invasion of Vietnam has forced the country to become an ally. So perhaps Vietnam Airlines didn’t have to pay as high a “fee”. It’s pretty obvious corruption is going on when you have the likes of Allegiant and Frontier allowed to operate in the US, but not Thai Airways.

  9. Total nonsense garbage! Countries should drop direct flights to the US and if US airlines want to operate direct flights these countries should inspect US airports! The US has the crappiest airports and airlines!!!

  10. @Stuart reading comprehension is not your forte I guess. Re-read the article and we will give it another go. Not talking about TG, but Thailand.

  11. @Dennis,

    That’s absurd, while relations between the US and Vietnam have definitely been improving lately, Thailand has been an ally of the US for a very long time and continues to host US military bases on its territory, somethunf that is unthinkable for the Vietnamese.

    It’s clear that Thailand needs quite a bit more work to bring their systems and safety culture up to par, so don’t try to twist things into a story about corruption at the FAA.

    Personally, while I recognise this applies to the nation not just one airline, I have to say it would make me think twice about choosing Thai over other options in the region if prices are similar.

  12. Anyone who has been longer in Thailand or travels via Thailand frequently (and BKK is the obvious hub in mainland SEA) knows that @Stuart and @Kerry are reckless at best when they condemn Thai Airways, based on an article that explicitly singles that airline out for not being the culprit for the low FAA ranking as @MACH81 said. Thailand air traffic is dominated by low-cost carriers (one of which is a Thai Airways subsidiary), which are centered in DMG rather than BKK, and while I doubt that AirAsia Thailand is especially bad either, it would probably make sense to read the report first. That said, Thai Airways might have problems, but from my own experience, these days, I’d always prefer them over LH from FRA, for instance.

  13. If the safety issues aren’t disclosed, how could you know they’re safe? It could be 26 trivial things, it could be 25 trivial things and a major issue.

  14. @Quincy I agree with you. I doubt the major carriers in Thailand are the problem, and that includes THAI/Thai Smile, Bangkok Airway, Thai AirAsia, and Nok Air. However, some of the charter airline here are really, really shabby. Orient Thai Airlines for an instance. Kan Air also doesn’t really have a good reputation either. That’s as far as my experience go, so I won’t comment on other airlines.

  15. @Kerry and others who think I’m ranting. As Quincy said, Thai Airways and even Bangkok Airways and some of the other smaller Thai airlines are multiple time better than most of the US carriers, especially the ones I mentioned like Frontier and Allegiant. In fact, the likes of United and AA are low-cost carriers now with greedy shareholders, with no doubt a safety record to match. Same goes for the crumbling buildings they call airport terminals. It’s all about money, filling the pockets of the FAA and the US3 lobbying to keep competition away. Case in point – Donald Trump is the President. Do you think he got there because of his “skills”? Same with the US3 – do you think they are dominant in North America because they are “superior” airlines?

  16. @Dennis

    I don’t have an opinion as to your ranting or not ranting but I do have to question your logic in this discussion and a major reason for my questioning your logic is your statement that the war with Vietnam forced the US to become an ally with Vietnam. I don’t understand how the US was forced into this after twenty years of not having normal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

    You may explain.

  17. @bandmeeting, it was the other way around – Vietnam became an ally of the United States, allowing various corporations in – as long as you pay the bully, you can run as normal. The US has done the same with every other country it tries to invade and why they label some countries as “rogue” (Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, etc). Why not China who has imprisoned millions of Uighur people and has a one-party system? Because money is rolling and China invests heavily into the US. Anyway that was my reply to the person who asked about Vietnam Airlines. Thailand has never been colonized so they don’t really participate in those systems.

  18. @Dennis,
    You probably should learn a thing or two about investing. Yes US3 service isn’t the same level as ME3 or others but they’re not unsafe airline.
    Let me ask you one thing, as a shareholder, do you want to invest in Etihad? or even SQ or GA or Thai for example? Wait… many airlines aren’t even public and you can’t even invest on those…
    You’re probably not even an investor. As an investor, I have been very happy with the US3 performance in the past few years in particular DL.
    US3 is a business. Many other major airlines are not let me repeat are not a business or not a profitable business.

    Take SQ for example. SQ is a national pride of Singapore. It is a brand of the nation like Changi not a business. Government is not demanding the highest number of profit from SQ. But wait, SQ is now even charging to have advance seating in Y (or lower class than Y) if you have no status. Why are they doing this? Are they as cheap as US3 airlines?

    Please, don’t tell me you don’t like money. IF you don’t like money, please give some of yours.

    Sure FAA might have their agenda but your rant is pointless. Anyway, these people are talking about safety and you’re ranting about which airline is worse. IF that’s the case should we start ranking airline and the inferior one and their civil aviation authority and the country should just basically shut up? That’s basically what you’re implying. If you think FAA is bunch of BS. Then you probably shouldn’t fly aircraft that are certified by either FAA or EASA (they work more than you think).

    Regarding airport, sure US airport is terrible. I can’t defend them other than it is improving. and FAA has nothing to do with airport design how airport is being ran.

    Btw Yes, Trump got to where he is because of his skills. He saw what people want and took the opportunity. That’s the only skill needed to win in a democracy, which brings me to next question why are you hating on single state party? As far as i am concern, it is better. Look at airport in china or singapore. Single state party works with the right dictator.
    Whether or not you agreed with his politics that’s secondary. But you can’t deny that he won.

  19. Let’s play find the Russian and Chinese propeganda… it’s all over this thread.
    The FAA isn’t a bully. Thai asked to be certified and failed.
    Clearly they have some issues. Also, the FAA doesn’t do bribes and official corruption on the federal level is very rare. The propagandists pushing against anything US and trying to dismantle a system that’s has worked well, is clearly just a smear against the US.

  20. @jkjkjk, and @JBJ, what it boils down to is this: I’m sick and tired of the hypocrisy of the US government. I mean, sort yourselves out first before pointing the finger and setting standards for others.

  21. I live in Bangkok and fly at least once/month in and out of BKK and DMK.

    Over the last two years, I have seen increased intensity with respect to security screening at Suvarnabhumi Airport, TG’s hub, in particular – both on the international and domestic sides. I tend not to fly TG internationally because their prices for originating at BKK are sky high and their fleet is kind of inconsistent (and they swap out planes all the time), but when I have taken them on domestic routes (just last weekend to head up to CNX for a long weekend, for example), I have been impressed with how seriously their crews take the safety stuff. That doesn’t mean corners aren’t cut somewhere, but from what I can see, I feel confident flying them. My international flying out of BKK is usually wth BA, CX, or AY, and again, the experience usually inspires confidence. Plus, I find it hard to believe that if issues were so bad at BKK, these airlines would continue flying here.

    Don Mueang is another story…out of DMK, I have flown Thai Air Asia, mostly. The domestic airport security experience is harried and casual, at best, and does not inspire confidence. I truly dislike flying out of DMK and have only flown domestically through there, though I have a flight coming up in May to Hanoi, so I’ll see how the international security experience is. Every time I am there, though, I see planes from airlines I’ve never heard of, and some of them look…shoddy. These seem to be mostly start-ups and charters, and there are some that I would absolutely refuse boarding. Operationally, the airport seems to run smoothly, and there are parts that have gotten lovely facelifts…but other parts of the airport are in disarray. It’s just a mixed bag.

    Other airports around the country – CNX, KBV, HKT, TST, UTH, CEI – are tiny compared to BKK and DMK, and many of them lack the kind of security experience folks used to, say, European or North American airports, might be more comfortable with. That being said, I don’t ever get the sense that people are deliberately negligent in their work – they just do their best with the kind of facilities, equipment, and training they have. After a few years living here, I’ve gotten used to it, but I still worry sometimes, if I’m being honest. Does it stop me from living my life, though, and seeing more of this beautiful country? No.

    Word here is that AOT – Airports of Thailand – really wants to modernize the whole country’s airports. With 25% of the country’s GDP coming from tourism, I think we will continue to see more improvements. This country’s growth has, in general, been exponential, and simply hard to keep up with in recent years – at times, it even seems to be going unchecked. But that’s part of the Thailand experience…

  22. I’ve read all the comments…just one question. Would you put your family on Thai (747, a350,777 etc) this summer between some of their major regional routes…BKK, SIN, HKT, DPS, etc? Yes or No.

  23. @Bill, yes absolutely. And conversely, our family avoids US airlines because they are too much of a problem.

  24. @bill – yes and I have, just this past summer. Never felt safer. The FAAs standards are post-911 stuff. They are much higher than other parts of the world, and that’s the FAA’s call. I see no conspiracy (looking at you @dennis)

  25. @Bill – yes, for sure…I just flew them BKK-CNX-BKK and felt very confident and safe, from domestic security at BKK to boarding and safety demos, throughout the short flights and the safety checks prior to landing. Booked BKK-HKT-BKK for next month as a result, rather than flying Thai AirAsia out of DMK.

  26. I’m gonna add my two-penny worth: I’ve stopped flying TG altogether, since the company I work for started servicing TG-crews. I’ve realized that most of the crew (captains and FOs included) have absolutely inadequate English language skills, and fail in communicating on the most simple levels. Anything out of standard is not understood, simple commands and messages are accepted but ignored, previously discussed and closed matters are suddenly brought back up, even if agreed or disagreed on minutes before. Yes means no, sometimes even yes. When communications fail and additional resources are being used on resolving those unnecessary situations, that help is met with sheepish giggles and blank smiles. It is apparently also very hard to learn from experience, as the same mistakes are repeated again and again daily. Now, where such inadvertence can be cute and charming with the lady cooking your eggs in downtown BKK, I would prefer not to find myself in the back of an airliner during an emergency with incompetence and no able communication with the ATC sitting behind that yoke. In my honest opinion, I don’t think TG should fly anywhere outside TH.

  27. Dennis, the US is a large country with over 350m people. Do we knock it out of the park every time? Clearly not. But are we supposed to hang up the white flag on enforcing safety because of this? No. And you haven’t presented a shred of evidence to support your claim that the FAA is operating from anything other than a safety standpoint. You just whine about the crappy quality of most US airlines (no argument on that one, btw).

    Interestingly, your disconnected, jingoistic, angry rant is very reminiscent of what most people stereotype Americans as.

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