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Increasing problems for Phuket Air in UK LONDON (UNITED KINGDOM) - Phuket Air logoA cut-price Thai holiday airline has been banned from flying to Britain after a safety scare during April in which passengers staged a rebellion when they saw fuel leaking from a wing. Phuket Air, which was used by several leading tour operators including Kuoni and Thomson Holidays, has had its operating licences suspended in Britain and its other European destination, the Netherlands.

The UK Department for Transport said the sanction, which is unusual for a mainstream carrier, was a result of "the number and severity of safety breaches revealed in Civil Aviation Authority inspections". One of the airline's jumbo jets is still at London-Gatwick airport. The aircraft has been impounded by the airport's operator, BAA, in lieu of unpaid landing duties, which industry sources put at more than GBP100,000.

Founded four years ago, Phuket Air uses a fleet of Boeing 747s aged between 15 and 26 years, which it bought from the Dutch national carrier, KLM. The venture was intended to attract price-conscious travellers in a long-haul version of Europe's successful low-cost airlines, with fares to Thailand from around GBP300 return. Problems began to emerge last month when passengers prevented a plane from taking off after a refuelling stop at Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, en route from Bangkok to London.

British holidaymakers said fuel was gushing out of a wing, although the airline claimed they were "typical drunken Brits" and said the fuel tanks had simply been overfilled. A replacement aircraft sent to pick up the tourists was delayed owing to further technical problems. Two days later, the same plane was forced to abandon a flight from Gatwick and circle above the airport, dumping 50 tonnes of fuel, owing to a hydraulics problem. A UK Civil Aviation Authority spot check found that the collision avoidance system on one aircraft was not working.

Other faults included a damaged gearbox and faulty emergency lights. The authorities in the Netherlands lost patience when one of the airline's pilots was found to have an out-of-date medical certificate. The Department for Transport in London said Thailand's main carrier, Thai International, was unaffected, and Britain still had confidence in Thailand's safety authorities. Phuket Air did not return calls on Thursday. BAA confirmed that it was refusing to allow a Phuket Air plane to leave Gatwick until the carrier had paid its bills, although it refused to say how much money was at issue. It said: "We are trying to resolve the issue as amicably as possible."


Related blog entry (category 'Tourism') Related blog entry (category 'Tourism'):
04 May 2005 · Phuket Air still in trouble


Posted in Tourism @ 06 May 2005 00:03 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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