The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday that it was downgrading Thailand's aviation safety rating to Category 2 because the country did not comply with international standards.
In stripping it of the Category 1 rating it received in 1997, the FAA said Thailand's civil aviation authority failed to meet "minimum international standards."
While no Thai airlines are currently operating any direct routes to the US, moves of the FAA are often mirrored by aviation authorities in other regions such as Europe raising the prospect of restricting routes to Europe. Thai Airlines ceased its only U.S. destination flight, to Los Angeles, in October, although it continues to operate code share connections.
The ICAO, a United Nations agency, "red flagged" Thailand in June over safety concerns, listing it alongside Angola, Botswana, Djibouti, Eritrea, Georgia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malawi, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Uruguay.
A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with ICAO standards. With an IASA Category 1 rating, a country’s air carriers can establish service to the United States and carry the code of U.S. carriers.
In response to the FAA's decision, Thailand's prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, ordered a swift overhaul of his country's aviation systems.