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Thailand yet to compensate airlines over airport closure

February 26th, 2009 · No Comments


AIRLINES are yet to be compensated for losses they suffered when anti-government protesters blockaded Thai airports last year, despite government assurances of financial support.

Some 350,000 tourists were stranded in Bangkok and 3.4 million prevented from entering Thailand when a group called the People’s Alliance for Democracy seized the city’s two international airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, from Nov 25 to Dec 4 last year.

The Bank of Thailand estimated the economic impact of the closures at 210 billion baht (S$8.9 billion) or 2 per cent of GDP.

The government pledged to provide 2,000 baht compensation per tourist per day to cover accommodation and food costs, as well as offering support to other affected tourist businesses, but airlines have yet to receive a single baht.

Thailand’s Board of Airlines Representatives (BAR), a trade association that represents more than 70 airlines locally, said that it has not even received official acknowledgement of its compensation claim report filed in December 2008.

‘Frankly, it’s quite disappointing we haven’t heard anything yet. Many of our members have complained about the lack of news from government,’ said a BAR spokesman. ‘We need to know whether they’re going to pay up or not. We all have businesses to run and balance sheets to reconcile over the losses, one way or another.’

BAR said that it submitted a combined compensation claim on behalf of its members to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Ministry of Transport on Dec 9, 2008, having been given only three days to compile the report by government. It submitted a revised report on Dec 18.

Its members’ claims were limited to receipted costs for staff overtime, accommodation and meals, additional check-in and security outlays and other services such as bussing passengers to other airports. The association would not reveal the total value of the claim.

‘Our members did everything they could to support the 350,000 stranded tourists,’ said the BAR spokesman. ‘We haven’t even received official assurances that sufficient security measures have been taken to prevent a repeat performance.’

Airline SAS, which footed its passengers’ hotel bills, said that it remains in the dark over compensation. ‘We immediately covered the costs for our passengers. It will sour our memory if we are not compensated,’ said Hakan Olsson, SAS director and general manager for South-east Asia.

Singapore Airlines also is yet to be reimbursed. ‘We don’t have any regrets about implementing an action plan that helped customers leave Bangkok, even if it cost us money in the short term, because customers recognised the effort put in by our staff to help them,’ said spokesman Stephen Forshaw.

An industry source said that the compensation delays were due to red tape and the change of government. ‘The problem is in implementing the compensation policy,’ he said. ‘It’s a huge bureaucratic process. The problems are really over who is responsible for administering it, who signs off the final cheque. Just cutting through the red tape is a huge task.’

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports said that it has already paid 1.9 billion baht in compensation to hotels to cover stranded tourists accommodation costs.

‘The Ministry of Tourism and Sports was told by the Cabinet to provide 2,000 baht per person per day in compensation for the affected tourists’ hotel bills,’ said a ministry spokesman.

Published February 26, 2009
© The Business Times

Tags: business · news · Thailand · The Business Times (Singapore)

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