Thailand’s Depuy Minister Thaworn Senniam said this week that he feared that Thai Airways may be flying into a ฿10 billion loss this year and warned that failure to reappraise the business plan for the company may lead to officials being held responsible if things go wrong. It comes he ordered a report into the possible use by Thai Air Asia of facial recognition software for passenger check-ins at a number of provincial airports on a test basis. 

Thai Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam signalled this week that the government may be taking a stronger line with the ongoing loss maker Thai Airways as it demanded a meeting with top executives and is reported to be looking for a new business plan to be presented in 3 months. It comes as Thai Air Asia appears to be expanding its operations in Thailand and has petitioned the ministry to begin testing facial recognition software on check-ins at a number of provincial airports.

The Chairman of Thai Airways Ekniti Nitithanprapas and key executives have been called to an October 10th meeting with Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senniam (inset right) who is reported to be looking for a new business plan from the state airline within 3 months, one that is radically different from the current business plan which has seen Thai Airways lose billions of baht. It comes as the Ministry of Transport has commissioned a report into the use of facial recognition technology for check-ins (inset) said to be proposed by expanding Thai Asia Asia airline.

The Thai Transport Ministry appears to be losing patience with the long-running turnaround plan being implemented for the loss-making state airline Thai Airways.

Chairman of Thai Airways and key execs to meet the deputy transport minister on October 10th

The deputy transport minister has announced that he has summoned the airline’s chairman Ekniti Nitithanprapas and key executives to a crunch meeting on October 10th to review the plan and the company’s ongoing business prospects.

It comes as the deputy transport minister has voiced concerns about the viability of this plan as losses at the state airline continue to mount. Losses at Thai Airways in 2018 amounted to ฿11.6 billion.

Management submitted a plan to buy more aircraft but recently  suggested that these could be leased

In recent times, management at the airline has submitted a request to purchase a new aircraft fleet but recently accepted that the planes could be leased instead of purchased as the government scrutinises the airline’s business plans. This week, the Thai deputy transport minister said he feared that the airline could lose a further ฿10 billion in 2019 and the time had come to reappraise the company’s prospects.

New business plan required in 3 months

It is understood that the transport ministry will be requesting a revised business plan for the airline within 3 months and one that revisits the ongoing management strategy which has so far resulted in losses. If the company fails to deliver this then the deputy transport minister warned that key officials at Thai Airways could be held responsible for matters if anything untoward was to happen to the company.

Report ordered into the use of facial recognition software on check-in desks for Thai Air Asia

The deputy transport minister speaking with the media revealed that Thai Air Asia, which operates a growing range of regional and international flights from Thailand has applied to the ministry to test innovative facial recognition technology for flight check-ins at selected airports in Thailand on a test basis.

The new technology uses key facial pinpoints also works with database information. The use of such systems raises many concerns not only in terms of user privacy but also the legality of such technology being used by a private company.

Technology can cut check-in times in half

However, the minister is cooperating with the request as Thai Air Asia has explained that the technology has many positive aspects in terms of security and improved efficiency. It reduces the check-in time from an average flight customer from the current 90 second period to 45 seconds.

Review by Department of Airports top executive

The deputy minister has ordered a complete review to be undertaken by Mr Somkiat Maneesathit who is the deputy director-general of the Department of Airports in Thailand. The review will take input from the Royal Thai Police including the Immigration Bureau, the Interior Ministry as well as officials as the Department of Airports and the Thai Civil Aviation Authority. 

First facial recognition check in to be operational at a Thai airport by year’s end

The report is to be submitted by the end of October with a 15-day extension if required. If the technology gets the green light then the system will be tested at Nakhon Phanom, Nan, Buriram and Roi Et provincial airports with the first airport using the technology to be up and running by the end of the year.

Thai Air Asia is also seeking government approval for an expansion of runways at Mae Sot and Betong airports.

Further reading:

Thailand and Cambodia move closer together with new rail and flights to boost trade, business and tourism

Activist slams Air Asia ad campaign in Australia that she claimed promoted Thai sex tourism at Aussie blokes