Nok Air Delays European Partner Plan

February 17, 2016

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Thailand's Nok Air has postponed plans to form a partnership with a European airline until 2017 after a pilot strike that forced the budget carrier to cancel several domestic flights on Sunday.

The strike came as Thailand is overhauling its aviation industry to improve safety standards after downgrades by international audit agencies last year.

Nok Air, 39.2 percent owned by flag carrier Thai Airways, had planned the partnership for July 2016, Patee Sarasin told a news conference.

The tie-up, which involves aircraft rental, would enable Nok Air to fly to Europe to help add more capacity for the partner during high season, while the partner could fly to Thai destinations, he said, without naming the partner.

The plan prompted Nok Air to undergo an internal restructuring to tighten aviation standards and comply with the European Aviation Safety Agency, Patee said.

Some pilots disagreed with the restructuring and went on strike, stranding 3,000 passengers, he said.

He added Nok Air had fired one employee and was investigating another seven staff, without giving details of their alleged wrongdoing.

On Monday, Deputy Transport Minister Omsin Chivapruek said Nok Air's operating license could be suspended and revoked if flight cancellations happened for a second or third time.

Nok Air has leased charter flights from Thai Airways and other domestic airlines to serve passengers until February 22 while it deals with the personnel problem, Patee said.