x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Cancellations hit flights to Bangkok

Flights from the UAE to Bangkok were suspended yesterday after unrest in the Thai capital's airport.

ABU DHABI // Flights from the UAE to Bangkok were suspended yesterday after unrest in the Thai capital's airport. Anti-government protesters stormed Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok late on Tuesday, as the leader of the country's army called on the government to stand down. The turmoil led to most flights in and out of the airport being cancelled yesterday, leaving passengers stranded in the UAE and 3,000 international passengers in limbo in Thailand.

Airlines were awaiting further news late yesterday before deciding whether flights could depart for Bangkok again today. The Foreign Ministry said the UAE embassy in Bangkok was contacting Emiratis in Thailand and all had been confirmed as safe. Three Emiratis were waiting at Suvarnabhumi Airport yesterday after the cancellation of their flight earlier in the day. Both Etihad Airways' flights to Bangkok, due to leave at 9.55am and 10.05pm, were grounded in Abu Dhabi.

A spokesman for Etihad said last night: "The situation currently is that all Etihad flights between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok are suspended until further notice. "We were fortunate in a way that the Tuesday night flight got out of Bangkok in time, before they shut the airport down. So we do not have any aircraft stranded in Bangkok at all." The airline helped stranded passengers find accommodation in Abu Dhabi, but are not obliged to cover the costs of their stay.

An Emirates Airline flight from Hong Kong to Dubai via Bangkok on Tuesday night returned to Hong Kong, and a flight from Sydney to Dubai, due to call in Bangkok, was diverted to Kuala Lumpur. Its flight from Sydney yesterday flew directly to Dubai, a flight to Hong Kong from Dubai was cancelled, and the return Sydney flight stopped at Singapore instead. Today, the Dubai-Bangkok-Hong Kong flight and flights to and from Bangkok are cancelled, while the flight to Sydney will fly via Singapore.

An Emirates spokesman said: "All passengers bound for Bangkok will be rebooked on the first available flight when the airport reopens. "Future flights will be held until we receive confirmation that the situation has improved and is stable. The safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance." A Thai Air spokesman at Dubai International Airport said the two flights each way between Dubai and Bangkok were cancelled yesterday. "We have had no communication with Bangkok about Thursday so we do not know what is going to happen."

The head of the Thai army, Gen Anupong Paojinda, called on Sonchai Wongsawat, the prime minister, to resign peacefully yesterday and to hold early elections to put an end to the protest. He also called on the protesters, comprising members of the People's Alliance for Democracy, a middle-class and royalist movement, to end their occupation of the airport. The movement has been behind a series of protests in Thailand since May 25 that has left five people dead and has escalated in violence.

rhughes@thenational.ae