Thai Airways Aiming To Resume Direct Flights To U.S. In 2017 (Pending ICAO Upgrade)

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Just about 9 months after Thai Airways stopped flying from Bangkok to Los Angeles (via Seoul) the airline is now aiming to resume their U.S. flights to either Seattle or San Francisco in 2017.

Thai A380Unfortunately the entire aviation sector of Thailand has received an ICAO downgrade due to safety concerns and lack of regulatory oversight, meaning until they are being upgraded no new routes to the U.S. can be established.

Thai Airways had to overcome similar hurdles for other countries who can individually choose to ignore the ICAO downgrade and consider routing applications on an ad hoc basis (just like China did) or decide to certify individual countries by themselves.

Thailand’s The Nation Newspaper (see here) reported about it.

The national carrier is also now energetically firing off marketing and sales gimmicks and clearing up flight-management and service issues in order to become profitable and beat the tough competition.

Charamporn Jotikasthira, president of THAI, said yesterday that either Seattle or San Francisco would be returned to its direct-flight network by next year. One of these two cities will help the airline reclaim market share from long-haul routes. They are better situated for connecting flights than cities further south such as Los Angeles. The resumption of service to the United States follows the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s lifting of the ban on Thai airlines for safety problems.

However, THAI may wait until Thailand’s Civil Aviation Department has been upgraded from Category 2 to Category 1 on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s list for the same problems. The airline said it would likely propose the plan to US authorities by itself as it confident of complying with US safety standards.

The flag carrier plans to add more destinations in China after authorities there lifted the ban on THAI over safety reasons, after the ICAO’s claims in February of last year that Thailand’s aviation practices did not meet international standards.

I can’t see how Seattle would prove to be useful for Thai Airways as both a destination and a connection city. The city is a hub for Alaska Airlines and popular with Delta Airlines. However it has very little Star Alliance imprint and the local Thai community is tiny.

San Francisco would provide more connection options since it’s a United Hub though population wise San Francisco is more popular with the American-Chinese, not with Thais who are mostly settled in Los Angeles.

Thai Airways has served Los Angeles for 35 years and considering the amount of connections out of LAX and the new Tom Bradley International Terminal I can’t see what would speak against flying there again.

Conclusion

The ICAO downgrade is a looming problem over the heads of Thailand based airlines such as Thai Airways and Thai Air Asia who all like to expand their route network as part of their growth (or in TG’s case recovery-) strategy.

Most people I know in Thailand fly with Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines to the U.S. to reach cities on both East and West Coast. This only includes one stop and two convenient flights vs connections in the U.S. which are always a mess.

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