South Korean carriers get licences

 The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) has renewed the licences of two South Korean no-frills carriers that earlier faced suspension over an air traffic dispute between Thailand and South Korea.

DCA director-general Woradej Harnprasert yesterday confirmed that T’way Airlines and Eastar Jet were reissued temporary permits valid from Oct 28 to March 30 next year.

The extension of the existing licenses, which expire Oct 27, came after the two carriers complained to Thai tourism bodies that the suspension could deprive Thailand of as many as 100,000 Korean visitors a year.

The airlines were caught in a struggle by the Thai DCA to have its South Korean counterpart grant rights for Thai Airways International (THAI) to increase flight frequencies from Bangkok to Los Angeles via Incheon, South Korea’s gateway hub.

THAI has sought to add three flights a week to Los Angeles via Incheon to its existing four flights, which is the weekly limit under a bilateral air traffic agreement between Thailand and South Korea.

The Thai flag carrier wants to raise the Bangkok-Los Angeles flights to seven a week by invoking its Fifth Freedom right to pick up passengers at Incheon on the way.

Mr Woradej said the reissued licences do not resolve the Fifth Freedom issue, which will be discussed with Seoul at a February meeting.

Under the Thai DCA’s stance, there would be no limit on either the number of South Korean airlines allowed to fly between Thailand and South Korea or on the amount of passenger traffic they want to carry.

The DCA wants Seoul to reciprocate by extending Fifth Freedom rights to THAI’s Los Angeles-bound flight.

T’way Airlines and Eastar Jet began plying Bangkok-Incheon earlier this year using a temporary licence valid for a six-month season.

Both airlines operate a daily flight between the two cities, using the 189-seat Boeing 737-800 jet.

The renewal, granted yesterday, was welcomed by airline officials, who said it would save them a lot of trouble and costs in fulfilling commitments already made to passengers and agents.

Source: Thai Airways

Photo: Eastar Jet

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