Hongkongers stranded in Thailand after City Airways grounded over safety fears

Michael de Waal-Montgomery



Safety concerns and worries over lax aircraft maintenance forced the grounding of a Hong Kong-backed regional airline that has left hundreds of holidaymakers from the city stranded in Phuket, Thailand, Thai officials have said.

Aviation authorities in Thailand have revoked landing rights for City Airways, and yesterday the airline – which has been operating regular flights since October 2012 – asked Hong Kong to cancel its parking slots at Chek Lap Kok airport.

“We were concerned about passenger safety following a report that revealed that City Airways has not been following proper procedures during maintenance on their planes,” Santi Pawai, the director of the ministry of Tourism and Sports Phuket office, told the Phuket Gazette yesterday.

The latest developments effectively ground the airline as it can no longer use three of the five airports it serves, Hong Kong, Phuket and Bangkok’s Don Mueang International. Flight schedules for the two mainland airports it serves – Nanchang Changbei International Airport and Nanjing Lukou International Airport – do not mention City Airways.

John Findlay, a former general secretary of the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association, said: “Safety comes first. It’s absolutely correct that they have suspended operations.

“But the Thai authorities have to investigate first before Hong Kong civil aviation department is in a position to act. It’s often the case that shortcutting in safety maintenance is a cost-cutting strategy.”

The Travel Industry Council said yesterday that it had not been informed of the status of the passengers in Phuket.

Thai officials had scheduled two replacement flights from Phuket to Bangkok yesterday.

A Civil Aviation Department spokesman would only say that City Airways “was designated by the Thai aviation authority to operate scheduled services between Thailand and Hong Kong”.

Additional reporting by Calvin Liu

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as City Airways grounded due to safety concerns