On December 1, the Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Thailand ‘s airline transportation system to a “category 2” rating.  What does that mean?  Well, it’s pretty simple.  It means that the Thai equivalent of the FAA has been found to be deficient in several areas and that Thailand lacks the laws and regulations which are required to properly monitor, surveil and oversee international airlines.  The effect of this downgrade is that Thai airlines are prohibited by the FAA from initiating any new service into the United States.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the FAA cited 33 areas of concern with Thai aviation regulators, including inadequate manpower and training and an insufficient ability to oversee the licensing/certification of pilots in a timely manner.  This would be the equivalent of British regulators saying that the FAA, which is, incidentally, the gold standard in aviation safety, is doing a lousy job surveilling America’s airline industry.

One of the most remarkable things about this indictment of the Thai aviation system is that some travel websites have posts indicating that this downgrade doesn’t make any individual Thai airline any less safe or make them a “don’t fly” air carrier.  One post states, “there is no implication to be drawn from this downgrade that any Thai carrier is unsafe.”

Let’s get real!  The FAA, which presides over the safest aviation system in the world, has said that the oversight by the Thai aviation authorities is so deficient that they have downgraded the  whole Thai aviation system.  The Thai authorities, like the FAA, have the responsibility to monitor and surveil Thai airlines.  The same is true of every national airline authority, namely, they are responsible for promulgating aviation safety regulations covering their carriers.

If the FAA downgrades a country’s aviation rating, it’s basically saying that the aviation authority is not doing a very good job.  The natural consequence of a national aviation safety authority not doing a very good job is that passengers traveling on airlines monitored/surveilled by that authority are, in all likelihood, less safe.

Plane-ly Spoken certainly acknowledges that a downgrade is not the same as a finding that any specific airline has any specific deficiency.  We think it’s worse since it raises a question regarding the entire regulatory standard to which all airlines in that country are being monitored and held.  For example, the question presents itself as to whether pilots, who have demonstrated proficiency to Thai aviation safety inspectors, are really proficient.

Instead of identifying a single deficiency in a single airline, easily capable of being remedied, such a determination calls into question whether the standards established by the national aviation authority are being properly and adequately applied.  In fact, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether, under the circumstances,  the entire regulated airline community of that country ought to be re-inspected before permitting it to continue operation, both domestically and internationally.

One thing is certain…contrary to some posts on some of the travel websites, if the Federal Aviation Administration finds a national aviation authority to not meet international aviation safety standards, you can be assured you won’t find us flying any of the carriers from that country.