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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 10:19 GMT 11:19 UK
Thai airline banned from the UK
Bangkok airport
Rebelling passengers had set off from Bangkok
A Thai airline has been banned from flying to the UK after an incident in which passengers stopped a plane taking off, believing there was a fuel leak.

Phuket Air did not wish to comment on having its operating licences suspended in the UK and the Netherlands.

But the Department for Transport said the ban was due to the "number and severity" of safety breaches found in Civil Aviation Authority inspections.

The airline still has a plane impounded at Gatwick due to unpaid landing bills.

'Confidence'

Phuket Air did not wish to comment on the licence suspension, but a UK spokeswoman did say the company had chosen to stop flights coming into the UK from 22 April because of a sharp fall in bookings following the tsunami.

Hundreds of British tourists stopped a Phuket Air plane taking off from Sharjah Airport in UAE at the beginning of April because they feared fuel was leaking from a wing.

They were let off the Bangkok-Gatwick plane, but the airline said ground staff had overfilled a fuel tank and there was no danger to passengers.

A second flight sent to pick up the tourists was also delayed at UAE for nearly 11 hours because of further technical trouble, before arriving safely in the UK.

Passengers had refused to fly on the first plane after some passengers screamed as "gallons" of fuel "spewed" from the plane's wing, witnesses said.

At the time Phuket Air threatened legal action, saying no-one was in danger and that some passengers had caused panic and affray.

Safety standards

A Department for Transport spokesman said a recent inspection by the Civil Aviation Authority on a Phuket Air plane found that the aircraft failed to reach safety standards.

The CAA found a faulty collision avoidance system, damaged gearbox and defective emergency lights.

The spokesman added: "The faults on the aircraft were only fairly minor and there was nothing to cause major alarm.

"But when you added all the faults together they didn't reach the safety standards required."

BAA also confirmed it has been holding a Phuket Air plane for the last month and it is unlikely to leave until the airline has paid its landing duties.




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