PM Vol 17 No 99 Editor’s Note
Nok Air Faces Pilot Shortage
The Thai airline industry has witnessed significant growth in recent years. According to the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI), air passenger traffic in Thailand increased by an annual average of 14.6% during 2009-2013 and Bangkok has become one of the top destinations in the world. However, although growth in demand for air transportation has opened up significant opportunities for airlines operating in Thailand, securing a sufficient number of qualified pilots has been a major challenge.
Nok Air is a Thai airline that is facing a shortage of pilots. The company recently reinforced safety audit standards aiming to be accredited by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program (an internationally recognized and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline). It was reported that some pilots did not satisfy the new standards and expressed their dissatisfaction by going on strike on 14 February 2016. As a result, 17 domestic flights in the same day were cancelled impacting around 3,000 passengers.
The situation has not been rectified and the company cancelled a further 20 domestic flights on 23 February. Nok Air explained to Thailand’s Ministry of Transport that these flight cancellations were internal issues within the company. Nok Air has revealed that the company has fired one pilot who engaged in the strike and some pilots have also resigned.
Patee Sarasin, the CEO of Nok Air expressed that the company has cancelled around 20 domestic flights per day due to the shortage of pilots. For the time being, Nok Air plans to ask for help from other low-cost carriers (LCCs) in Thailand such as Thai Smiles Airways to take on its customers on a temporary basis. In the meantime, with 192 pilots currently flying, the company plans to employ; an additional 20-30 pilots to normalize its flight operations. However, some industry players see that the internal chaos at Nok Air may prolong. There is a possibility that Nok Air will continue to face pilot shortages and will be forced to review its business plan.
As the Thai airline industry is expected to grow further in the future, the shortage of pilots is expected to be more apparent across the industry and is one of the most important challenges the industry faces. The aviation authority and airlines in Thailand must work together to address this challenge and must strive further for the development of qualified pilots.