* EASA expresses concern about Thai air safety oversight
* European Commission says will monitor Thai safety record (Adds comments from Thai Airways President and Thai Transport Minister)
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) expressed concern about Thailand’s air safety oversight on Thursday but not did include any Thai carriers in an updated list of airlines banned from flying in the European Union.
Some analysts had expected the EU could follow the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which last week downgraded Thailand’s safety ratings, saying the Thai civil aviation body had failed to tackle flaws in its commercial aviation standards.
The EU says it makes an overall assessment of a country’s aviation system when assessing which carriers can fly into the bloc.
Thai Airways International, which flies to 11 destinations in the EU, is the only Thai airline that currently flies into the 28-member bloc. The European Commission, the EU executive arm which works with EASA, said it would monitor Thailand’s safety record.
“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 Commission said in a statement.
Thai Airways president Charumporn Jotikasthira told reporters the decision was a relief, but “going forward, we have a lot of homework to do given EASA will monitor closely and review every six months.”
The Commission did add Iraqi Airways and Blue Wing Airlines of Suriname to its list, due to be published in full on Friday, while Kazakh carrier Air Astana was removed and can now operate in the EU, it said in a statement. Indonesian carrier Lion Air remained on the list, according to an EU official.
Thailand has been under growing pressure over its air safety.
The Southeast Asian country was downgraded by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) earlier this year due to safety concerns although Thailand has since taken action to ease those concerns.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, in its downgrade last week, did not give details but said Thailand’s Department of Civil Aviation was “deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping or inspection procedures”.
Thai Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told a news conference the Thai government and aviation body would continue to work with EASA, FAA and other international audit agencies to improve safety standards.
Thai authorities plan to re-evaluate licences of Thai airlines to make sure they meet international standards.
EASA visited Thailand earlier this year and on Wednesday Thailand’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation signed an agreement with the European body in which EASA would help Thailand improve its air safety oversight.
Europe is Thailand’s second largest tourism market. About four million European visitors travel to Thailand every year, and will account for about 18 percent of total international visitors this year, according to Thai tourism authorities. (Additional reporting by Khettiya Jittapong and Pracha Hariraksapitak in Bangkok; Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter)