Thai VietJet Air has been warned by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) that it may face punitive action if it does not follow air service rules. The warning comes after three of its flights between Bangkok and Phuket were cancelled on Thursday, causing significant inconvenience to many passengers.
The CAAT has summoned airline executives to explain the cancellations of flights VZ2304 from Bangkok to Phuket, VZ2305 from Phuket to Bangkok, and VA309 from Phuket to Bangkok.
According to Thai PBS, Thai VietJet flight VZ2304 was cancelled due to accumulated ground service delays at Suvarnabhumi airport, making it impossible for the flight to depart before the runway in Phuket closed for maintenance at 11.30 p.m.
The cancellation of the flight to Phuket automatically resulted in the cancellation of the return flight VZ2305. Passengers were supposed to be transferred to flight VZ309 after the flight in Phuket was cancelled.
During the transfer, however, an error in the seating arrangement occurred, resulting in more passengers than seats available.
Thai Vietjet provides food and lodging
The plane was forced to return to the gate for a second passenger check, causing additional delays that extended beyond the runway’s closure for maintenance. As a result, the flight was cancelled.
Thai VietJet Air claims to have taken good care of the stranded passengers by providing food and lodging, the same as EasyJet flight delay compensation.
The company also agreed to refund passengers who cancelled their flights with the airline and issue new tickets to passengers who wanted to fly the next day.
Because the seating arrangement error involves security, the CAAT stated that the airline’s representatives must be summoned for a detailed explanation.
According to the Bangkok Post, following confusion at Phuket airport on Thursday night, with flight delays and runway closures causing hundreds of passengers to miss their late-night departures to Bangkok, Airports of Thailand (AoT) and Thai Vietjet have reportedly learned their lesson and should be able to avoid repeating such mistakes in the future.
Phuket Airport “Teachable Moment”
All passengers booked on flights delayed on Thursday were rescheduled to depart on Friday morning, according to Mr. Bhumikitti Ruktaengam, advisory chairman of the Phuket Tourism Association.
According to him, the incident served as a “teachable moment” for airlines and airport authorities on how to avoid future problems. The same goes for other airlines and national carriers globally too, as they’re not only rule-bound to refund customers but pay additional compensation for claims made by passengers.
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On Friday, Airports of Thailand (AoT) issued a statement to clarify the situation, which involved approximately 300 passengers. According to AoT, Thai Vietjet flight VZ309 bound for Suvarnabhumi airport was unable to depart due to overbooking, and authorities were unable to handle the situation in time, implying that the runway had already closed.
The overcapacity on flight VZ309 was attributed to the airline assisting in the transportation of extra passengers from an earlier flight, VZ2305, which was cancelled because another aircraft at Suvarnabhumi airport was unable to fly to Phuket.
All passengers on board VZ309 were reportedly transferred to the terminal and stayed in Phuket that night.
Mr Bhumikitti claimed that the airline did not notify the airport ahead of time that it would need to use the runway after operating hours.
Runway Closures Until Spring of 2023
The airport had previously announced that it would be closed from 11.30 p.m. to 7 a.m. for essential engineering maintenance. All airlines were instructed to adhere to the schedule.
He stated that tourism operators had previously asked the AoT if it was necessary to close the runway during peak season, when air traffic is heavier than usual.
The AoT insisted that maintenance had already begun during the off-season, but that some repairs remained outstanding.
The runway will be closed from 11.30 p.m. to 7.30 a.m. until April 2023, according to the company.
“Phuket airport rarely deals with incidents like this because it does not have ground-handling shortages like Suvarnabhumi airport, which is currently causing many flights to be delayed. Furthermore, the airport allows for late-night use, but airlines must notify the airport in advance if a delay is unavoidable “Mr Bhumikitti stated.
Prior to the incident in Phuket, Thai Viejet’s chief executive, Woranate Laprabang, stated during a press conference that ground planning services at the airport are struggling due to a manpower shortage amid increased air traffic.
Passengers complained about delays at the baggage claim area because the airline used ground services from Thai Airways International, which also reported insufficient staff. The airline is requesting permission to manage its own ground handling and baggage loading at both Bangkok airports.
Thai Vietjet admitted in a statement yesterday that many domestic flight delays occurred on December 1 due to operational reasons. The airline compensated affected passengers with hotel stays, meals, a full refund option, free flight changes, and a 500 baht goodwill voucher.