Some 2,000 travellers still stranded in Bangkok after flights disrupted

Passengers pass their time after Thai Airways cancelled all flights to and from Europe at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb 28, 2019. (Reuters pic)

BANGKOK: About 2,000 travellers were still stranded in the Thai capital Bangkok on Friday and it will take a few more days to get them home after flights were disrupted by the latest conflict between Pakistan and India, airline officials said.

Thai Airways International cancelled more than a dozen flights to European cities — including London, Paris, Milan, Zurich and Frankfurt — after Pakistan closed its airspace on Wednesday amid rising tensions with India.

“There are still about 2,000 passengers,” Thai Airways President Sumeth Damrongchaitham told reporters at a briefing to announce the company’s financial results.

The backlog would be cleared over the next two or three days, he said.

Nearly 5,000 passengers – most of them flying on Thai Airways and Taiwan’s EVA Airways – scrambled to find alternative flights from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport after Pakistan closed its airspace on Wednesday.

World powers urged restraint as tensions escalated following a suicide attack that killed at least 40 Indian police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb 14, triggering tit-for-tat air strikes by both countries.

Pakistan said its airspace would re-open to commercial flights at 4pm local time (1100 GMT) on Friday.

Thailand is among the world’s most popular tourist destinations, drawing more than 38 million visitors last year, about 6.8 million of them from Europe.

Rival carriers like Singapore Airlines re-routed their European flights to avoid the affected airspace, but Thai Airways did not have routes over Iranian or Turkish airspace, Sumeth said.

Thailand’s national carrier eventually gained permission from China to use its airspace and resumed flights to Europe on Thursday evening.

The financial cost of the flight disruptions was still being assessed and could be covered by insurance, Sumeth said.

Investors pushed Thai Airways stock down over 3% on Friday after the state-owned airline reported a wider loss of 11.6 billion baht (US$367.2 million) in 2018 due to higher fuel expenses.