A Nok Air passenger posted on her Facebook page a picture of a packed Nakhon Si Thammarat-Don Meaung flight, expressing her concern at the lack of social distancing.
In response, Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) director-general Chula Sukmanop said the mandatory measure comes into effect only from May 1.
“I boarded the plane [Flight DD7809] on Friday [April 24] from Nakhon Si Thammarat, heading to Don Meuang, but the airline notified passengers that it had to make a detour to Trang Airport to pick up additional passengers,” the concerned traveller said.
“The detour caused a two-hour delay, not to mention that the public distancing measure and alternate seating to prevent Covid-19 from spreading could not be implemented as the added passengers filled up the plane,” she wrote on Facebook.
After the post was viral, CAAT Director-General Chula responded that the mandatory social separation measure on board would take effect from May 1.
“This picture was taken before May 1, while Nok Air had already notified CAAT of operating the new Nakhon Si Thammarat-Trang-Bangkok route, aiming to accommodate more passengers,” he said. “However, from May 1, the societal distancing measure must be strictly adhered to, at ticketing booths and until the destination airport.”
According to Chula, the measures include restricting each aircraft to carry passengers at a maximum 70 per cent of capacity, flights that take to a greater than 90 minutes can have only two rows of seating, while every passenger must wear a face mask all the time or they will be denied boarding. Food and beverages will not be sold on board to minimise the chance of Covid-19 spreading.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Saksyam Chidchob said he was aware of the situation and had written to Nok Air urging them to improve their measures to address passenger concerns as soon as possible.
“I have invited Nok Air representatives to discuss this issue,” he said. “Airlines that ignore the social distancing measures will be issued a warning first, then again be fined if the problem persists, and will finally be suspended if they fail to follow Public Health Ministry regulations.”