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[BRUSSELS] The European Union maintained warnings to Thailand about the need to improve airline safety while stopping short of blacklisting any Thai carriers.
In the latest changes to its list of unsafe airlines barred from flying in the EU, the European Commission added Iraqi Airways as a result of "unaddressed safety concerns" and removed Kazakh operator Air Astana.
The commission, the 28-nation EU's regulatory arm, said no curbs on Thailand-based airlines are warranted "at this time," while stressing that it and the European Aviation Safety Agency would keep a close eye on standards in the country.
"The commission and EASA are willing to continue to work with the Thai authorities to enhance aviation safety in the country," the Brussels-based regulator said in a statement on Thursday.
"The commission and EASA will, however, closely monitor future developments and, if the protection of air passengers against safety risks so requires, the commission could then propose to include one or more air carriers from Thailand in the air safety list."
Shares of Thai Airways International Pcl jumped as much as 12 per cent Friday morning and were trading up 8.5 per cent at 8.90 baht at 11.23am in Bangkok, poised for their largest daily gain since April 1.
The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organisation cut Thailand's safety rating earlier this year, noting more than 1,000 deficiencies. The US Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Thailand on Dec 1, preventing Thai carriers from adding new American destinations.
In that context, and after the commission said in June that "the effective implementation of international safety standards in Thailand is well below the world average," speculation arose that the updated EU blacklist would target Thai airlines.
The decision not to bar its carriers "helps boost confidence in Thailand and reflects that Thailand has done the right things to solve its problems," Chula Sukmanop, director of the Office of Civil Aviation, said Thursday night after the European move.
The European blacklist was first drawn up by the commission in 2006 with more than 90 airlines, mainly from Africa. The ban covers passenger and cargo carriers from nations including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Liberia, Sudan and Zambia.
Airline crashes in 2004 and 2005 that killed hundreds of European travelers prompted EU governments to seek a uniform approach to airline safety through a common blacklist. The list, updated generally twice a year, is based on deficiencies found during checks at European airports, companies' use of antiquated aircraft and shortcomings by non-EU airline regulators.
In addition to imposing an operational ban in Europe, the blacklist can act as a guide for travelers worldwide and influence safety policies in non-EU countries. Nations that are home to carriers with poor safety records can ground them to avoid being put on the EU list, while countries intent on keeping out unsafe foreign airlines can use the European list as a guide for their own bans.
Previous EU airline-blacklist decisions have affected individual Thailand-based carriers while stopping short of a country-wide ban or of curbs on Thai Airways.
In March 2006, when it published its first blacklist, the EU included Phuket Airlines - a ban that lasted a year - and in April 2009 the bloc barred a Thai operator named One-Two-Go Airlines before removing the company from the list three months later because Thai authorities had revoked its certificate.