03 Feb “Red flag” audit helps Thailand to achieve a new level in aviation safety.


In 2015, Thailand’s aviation safety standard was evaluated by several aviation safety audit schemes. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was the first organisation that audited the Thai Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) as part of its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) in January 2015. This programme is intended to ensure a consistent global standard for aviation safety and the civil aviation authorities of ICAO member states. Following the audit, ICAO listed Thailand as a “Red Flag” country over what it sees as Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) within the country’s aviation sector.

The red flag audit

The SSC status does not necessarily indicate a particular safety deficiency in the Thai air navigation service providers, Thai airlines, Thai registry aircraft or aerodrome; but, rather, indicates that the state is not providing sufficient safety oversight to ensure the effective implementation of applicable ICAO Standards. Although specific information about the SSC was not made public, the red flag was hoisted over the area of operation.


After USOAP, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) audited Thai aviation safety and announced in December 2015 that Thailand did not comply ICAO safety standards and has been assigned a “Category 2 rating” based on a reassessment of the country’s civil aviation authority.

What is the impact of the Thailand’s lowered safety rating?

With a Category 2 rating, Thailand’s carriers can continue existing service to the United States but they will not be allowed to establish new services. The direct effect on Thai carriers is limited, since currently there are no Thai carriers operating on routes to and from the US. The same holds true for the direct impact on passengers, they already travel to Thailand via alternative airlines.

Although the audit’s results may have limited direct impact on Thai aviation industry, it may affect the image of the country as well as the competitiveness of airlines through several factors such as the higher insurance premium or not being able to increase service frequency on existing routes nor compete on new international routes.

Will it have further impact on Thai-registered airlines?

The last safety audit of individual Thai airlines was carried out, also in 2015, by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The EASA stated that individual Thai-registered airlines meet their aviation safety standards. This would mean there will be no additional impact for individual airlines. This positive result has lifted confidence from other countries somewhat over Thai aviation safety standards.

Direct actions by the Thai Department of Civil Aviation

In response to the audit results the DCA has taken the matters very seriously, this resulted in major changes in three areas, namely laws and regulations, organisation, and personnel. The Government has passed several laws and regulations to support the new organisations that will be established. The former DCA was reorganised and divided into three organisations to separate the functions:

  • the new aviation regulator: the “Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand” (CAAT);
  • airport operations are the responsibility of: the “Department of Airports”;
  • search and rescue operations now reside directly under the Ministry of Transport’s Office of the Permanent Secretary.
Regarding the personnel, highly qualified staff members were recruited. The training programs were also set up not only to maintain but also to improve staff skills.

One of the early actions that was already taken by CAAT in “Air Operator Certificate Recertification” or “AOC Recertification”. All 41 air operators currently operating in Thailand were required to be recertified and inspected by the CAAT to ensure that all air operators in Thailand strictly complied with the aviation safety standards and recommended practices of ICAO.

Although it has been a difficult year, the red flag from ICAO and the downgrade by the FAA lead to the new chapter of Thai aviation industry. Several actions have been undertaken by both public and private sectors that have been working together closely in order to improve the aviation safety standards and to restore the confidence to the Thai aviation industry. We applaud the progress made in such a short period of time; ‘Thailand is a good example for other countries that are aiming at improving aviation safety standards’.

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. For more information please refer to www.to70.com

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Narisra Limtanakool
Narisra Limtanakool
I joined To70 in the Netherlands in 2008, and returned to establish To70 Thailand in 2009. Over the years, the Thai office has expanded its young and energetic aviation consultant team. The network of To70 offices around the world allows us to combine international expertise with local knowledge to ensure that we can deliver what is in the best interest of our clients.
Jakrin Kutantham
Jakrin Kutantham
I studied in Aviation Technology at Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand. After graduation, I worked in flight planning and operation for years. I have joined To70, Bangkok as Aviation Consultant since November 2015. I believe that professional consultancy services and research will play an important part in driving the growth of Thai aviation industry.
  • RE-BLOG WEREWOLF: SAFE LANDINGS – Guardians of the Bays
    Posted at 01:11h, 20 October Reply

    […] True, some countries with strong tourism sectors have managed to do even worse, and do operate below the minimum safety standards that govern international aviation. Thailand for instance, Thailand was downgraded last December by the ICAO and FAA on safety grounds. However, the safety ‘red flag’ raised over Thailand has reportedly led directly to safety improvements. […]

  • Pongnarin w.
    Posted at 17:15h, 21 October Reply

    I’m pleasure that i’ve good opportunity to joint with to70 ,thanks .

  • Shehan
    Posted at 11:48h, 19 June Reply

    was this he safety ‘red flag’ raised over ? what is the safety ranking now ?

    • Shehan
      Posted at 11:51h, 19 June Reply

      Please ignore the typo in the previous comment

      * was this safety ‘red flag’ raised over ? what is the safety ranking now ?

  • Jakrin Kutantham
    Posted at 04:02h, 27 December Reply

    Hi Shehan, The ICAO Red Flag has been lifted off since October 2017.

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