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Thailand expects review by UN aviation body to be delayed

[BANGKOK] Thailand is likely to delay a review by the United Nations' aviation agency until early 2017 because it needs more time to improve the qualifications of Thai auditors, the country's new civil aviation authority said on Monday.

Thailand's aviation industry is under scrutiny after the UN's International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) downgraded the country in June 2015, giving it a red flag for missing a deadline to resolve significant safety concerns.

Pressure was mounting after the US Federation Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded the country's safety ratings in December last year.

"The next review by ICAO should be postponed to early next year from late this year," Amphawan Wannako, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), told reporters.

CAAT, set up last year by the military government to tackle flaws in commercial aviation, has completed new guidelines about safety inspection as required by ICAO, but more time was needed to make sure its auditors were qualified, Amphawan said.

The auditors must finish their training by the end of June if they are to complete a review of 41 Thai-registered airlines and re-certify them by November, she said.

In a separate development, Deputy Transport Minister Omsin Chivapruek told a news conference Thai authorities have asked 14 domestic airlines to make contingency plans if they have to cancel some flights.

The move came after Nok Airlines, the budget carrier unit of Thai Airways International, cancelled nine domestic flights as some pilots went on strike on Sunday.

Nok Air's representative did not join the meeting with the minister on Monday afternoon, Omsin said.

Shares in Nok Airlines closed down 2.1 per cent at 7.05 baht ($0.1980) after falling as low as 6.80 baht, while the main Thai index was 0.93 per cent higher.