ICAO, which is a United Nations specialized agency headquartered from Montreal, has audited the Thai authorities that oversee the aviation sector in the country and have found significant flaws. The previous audit that the country passed was done in 2005.
The report that was released to the governments (not made public yet) on March 20, 2015, found that there are “significant safety concerns”.
The ICAO itself doesn’t have any authority to act. Member governments usually restrict the airlines’ operations from the country in question based on the ICAO downgrade. Both Japan and Korea have already done just that. This has lead to flight cancellations by Thai Airways, Thai AirAsiaX, NokScoot and Asia Atlantic Airline.
You can access and article on New York Times about this downgrade here of which below is an excerpt:
The Thai ministry did not give details of the group’s concerns or recommendations, but said it planned to inform countries about the status of Thailand’s aviation safety and “the solutions to fix the faults that were found in the inspection as soon as possible.”
Thailand was audited by the group in January; its previous assessment was in 2005. The aviation group’s office in Bangkok referred questions to its headquarters in Montreal, which could not immediately be reached for comment. Kwak Young-pil, an official from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in South Korea, said on Friday that the United Nations group made the designation on March 20.
Audits assess a country’s ability to ensure aviation safety in areas like staff licensing and training, airworthiness, and accident investigation, according to a report by Watson Farley & Williams, an international law firm with a commercial transportation practice.
The Civil Aviation Bureau of Japan informed its Thai counterpart by email this week that it would not allow new charter flights operated by carriers registered in Thailand to fly to Japanese airports. Noriaki Umezawa, a spokesman for the bureau, said the temporary measure was issued because of concerns that the airlines may not meet international safety standards.
WFW law firm has prepared a briefing (publicly available on their website) what implications the possible downgrade from Category 1 to 2 has:
Considering all the instability in Thailand since the 2005 and the military coup d’etat last year, it is not a surprise that the civil aviation authority could be in turmoil and not best equipped to oversee the rapidly growing aviation sector in the country.
If the ICAO downgrade takes place and the FAA downgrades the country as well, it means that the US airlines would not be allowed to codeshare with airlines based in Thailand.
Doesn’t look good for Thai AirAsia X and NokScoot that are just beginning their medium/long-haul operations that would be mostly affected this ICAO downgrade.