February 23, 2023: Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thai Airways, was discovered to have been providing unauthorized self-ground handling services, such as maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services, to other airlines at Tribhuvan International Airport. This prompted the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal to direct TIA to stop the ground handling services conducted by Thai Smile Airways and temporarily suspend the self-ground handling service authorized by Thai Airways.
Thai Airways was one of the pioneer passenger jet service providers that connected Nepal to the rest of the world. Starting with one flight per week in 1968, it expanded its service to one flight per day in 1977, with a few skilled manpower and technical equipment from Nepal Airlines. This prompted the CAAN to authorize Thai Airways to conduct self-ground handling services at TIA. However, Thai Airways temporarily suspended its flights to Nepal in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CAAN allows self-ground handling services at TIA to Thai Airways and Air India and has provisions for other airline companies to receive permission for self-ground handling services if they conduct at least 35 flights per week.
Thai Smile Airways, a subsidiary of Thai Airways, had sought permission to use the self-ground handling service provided to its parent company by the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN). However, it was rejected due to not fulfilling the set criteria of the Ground Handling Service Directive 2016. Despite this, it was discovered that Thai Smile Airways had been providing unauthorized self-ground handling and MRO services to other airline carriers at Tribhuvan International Airport.
As a result, TIA has been directed to halt all ground handling services being carried out by Thai Smile Airways. The CAAN has stated that only commercial handling agencies and companies are authorized to provide MRO services and must have an identification permit from the civil aviation authority of their respective country to provide such a service.
Thai Airways had also provided MRO services to other airlines, including Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, while it was operating flights to and from Nepal. The self-ground handling service provided to Thai Airways will be reinstated after resuming regular operations in the country, and Thai Smile Airways will not be permitted to use it. The recent case of TIA General Manager Prem Nath Thakur, suspended after an audio clip of a conversation between Thakur and a representative of Thai Smile Airways was made public, may also be related to the issue.