Thailand: Inbound flight ban may not end on 1 Jul 20

  • The ban on commercial international flights might not be lifted on 1 Jul 20 as originally planned and, if and when the ban is scrapped, business people will likely be the first to be allowed to travel, according to Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) director-general Chula Sukmanop. The ban went into effect on 27 Apr 20.
  • Mr Chula said it is not certain if the planned re-opening of airports to international flights will proceed on 1 Jul 20. He reasoned that before the ban is revoked, the Public Health Ministry must evaluate health safety and give the green light. Also, the “travel bubble” scheme will need to be negotiated where travel will resume progressively between Thailand and other countries deemed safe.
  • Restoring international flights must also take into account the issues of travel safety and whether destination countries have reopened their borders to Thai citizens.
  • Not everyone will be able to fly out of the country immediately after the ban is lifted. Business people may be the first group to be permitted to travel overseas. Even then, business people and investors will need to undergo health checks before travelling. They are more prepared and better able to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 transmission than tourists, according to Mr Chula.
  • Businesspeople are more resilient to the effects of the pandemic. For example, they have the means at their disposal to pay for staying in a foreign country during an extended period of quarantine and if there are associated medical costs.
  • However, airlines will no longer have to leave empty seats on flights to keep passengers apart. The empty-seat measure has been opposed by airlines as it eats into profits. That said, passengers will still be required to wear masks during flights and airlines must install effective cabinet air filter systems.
  • Mr Chula added food and drinks to be served on flights exceeding two hours must be in sealed containers. This is where airlines have raised queries.
  • At a meeting between airlines and the CAAT, it was agreed in principle that the last three rows in the back of the cabin must be left unoccupied to accommodate any passengers who fall sick during a flight. However, the restriction may not be applicable to flights that are less than one hour long.
  • Meanwhile, Thai Airways is prepared to restart commercial flights plying more lucrative routes on 1 Aug 20.

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