ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Thailand's PC Air ordered to suspend flights
Publication Date : 19-10-2012
PC Air, the Thai airline that launched last year amid publicity for it transgender flight attendants, has been ordered to halt flights by the Civil Aviation Department after it stranded Thai tourists for two days in South Korea when it could not pay its fuel bill.
After being stranded at Seoul's Incheon International Airport since Tuesday, the Thais returned to Bangkok yesterday after PC Air paid its outstanding fuel and airport fees.
Civil aviation chief Voradej Harnprasert said his department will need a week to investigate what happened and warned that PC Air could be stripped of its licence if such an incident happened again.
The PC Air flight returned to Bangkok at 4am yesterday morning with 228 passengers. It left behind around 170 more passengers, who were assisted with accommodations and meals by the Thai Embassy, tour agencies and Thai Airways International. They were to return to Bangkok at around 10 last night.
PC Air president Peter Chan apologised for the inconvenience and assured that the airline had paid the fuel charges. He said he would go to South Korea to further investigate the problem.
Deputy Transport Minister Chatchart Sithipan said he would discuss the matter with Voradej today.
PC Air has a licence to operate charter flights to Seoul and Hong Kong from October 1 to 30.
Chatchart said he wanted to determine whether the airline had violated aviation regulations and if its licence needed to be revoked or not.
When the licence expires on October 31, authorities would assess again whether it should be renewed, he added.
The Bureau of Prevention and Assistance in Tourist Fraud set up registration points at Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports to gather the affected tourists' complaints. The Tourism Department's Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration would inspect the tour agencies' licences.
In addition to stranding tourists in South Korea, PC Air's flight delay also left 32 Thais grounded in Bangkok. They had bought South Korean tour packages and were due to leave on Tuesday night.
The tourists and representatives of nine affected tour agencies yesterday urged the Crime Suppression Police to help negotiate for compensation with PC Air.
A passenger who asked not to be named said she bought a five-day tour package worth 21,900 baht (US$713) and was scheduled to depart from Don Mueang on Tuesday night but couldn't because of PC Air's fuel-bill problem. She said she later learned that the airline has only one plane. She said the tour agencies helped arrange accommodations for the travellers from upcountry.
Police interviewed the tourists and tour agencies and have coordinated with PC Air to send representatives to talk with those affected. The tour agencies have also issued refunds to some customers who no longer wished to take the trip.