Low-cost airlines face penalties

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Low-cost airlines face penalties

Low-cost carriers (LCC) will be penalized if they do not have enough extra pilots and airplanes as backup for each of their flights, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced on Thursday.

The ministry will consider not allowing carriers to operate on certain routes or give them disadvantages when they apply for more aircraft operations if they do not follow safety procedures.

“We won’t accept … them in the market if they don’t follow the rules by taking every possible measure, such as revoking their air operator’s certificates,” the ministry said on Thursday.

The ministry conducted safety evaluations on local carriers after a number of incidents were reported, such as Jin Air being forced to make an emergency return to the Philippines earlier this month, and found a number of problems in the way they operate.

Some LCCs failed to follow simple safety procedures and paid little attention to strengthening the safety and training of pilots and other crew members, the ministry said.

A Jin Air flight made an emergency return to the Philippines while heading to Korea after one of its doors was found to be leaking air. The ministry said engineers should have checked the system prior to takeoff and that the pilot and crew failed to follow emergency procedures. The pilot did not turn on the engine bleed switch, which he had to check three times before and after departure, according to the ministry’s investigation report.

The ministry found that the pilots’ lack of understanding of the airplane contributed to the recent Jin Air incident. On a flight that left Gimpo International Airport in Seoul for Jeju Island in December, the pilot realized just 20 minutes before landing that the plane’s pressurization device was faulty, which forced a steep descent and traumatized the 152 people on the plane.

Pilots and engineers involved in such incidents will be banned from working for 30 days, and the carrier will be grounded for a week or pay a 600 million won ($497,000) fine per incident.

The ministry said it will also pressure LCCs to have at least six pairs of pilots and co-pilots and 12 engineers ready for each plane. Currently, LCCs have an average of 5.5 to 5.9 pairs of pilots and 9 to 11 engineers per aircraft.

However, some argue that the ministry cannot force LCCs to follow these recommendations since there are no such existing international aviation laws.

The ministry said it will inspect the operating manuals of LCCs to prevent the recent chaos at Jeju International Airport, where 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) of snow last weekend shut down the airport for almost three days as thousands of travelers remained stuck in the terminal.

The ministry will cooperate with other government branches in reviewing various items such as carriers’ customer notification systems. It also plans to create an air traveler protection code and establish a council for air traveler protection.

The government is also going to evaluate the safety of LCCs based on various criteria and make the result public.

The ministry said the action might result in good competition, with carriers paying more attention to strengthening their safety operations.


BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]



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