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Thailand escapes European airline curbs as EU vows scrutiny

[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 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 developments 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." The United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization 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.

Thai Airways International Pcl is the only commercial Thai carrier to fly to the EU. On Wednesday, in anticipation of a European decision, the airline said that it has "a situational plan and business continuity plan in place." 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.

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