August 31, 2001
Travellers planning to fly Thai Airways International will have to stay on alert. They have to make sure that they are not flying with Phijit Robsirikul and Jamsri Sukchoterat.
As you already know, Phijit and Jamsri are the darlings of the unionists at THAI, who are at loggerheads against the pilots. Some 324 pilots out of the national carrier’s total of 950 have declared Phijit and Jamsri as persona non grata.
If they find out that Phisit and Jamsri are on the passenger list, they will not take off. If they find out that Phisit and Jamsri are already on board their flight while they are taxiing, the pilots will stop the aircraft in the middle of the runway. And if they find out that Phisit and Jamsri are on board while they are taking the passengers airborne at 30,000 metres above ground level, they will say goodbye to everybody by diving out of the cockpit with their parachutes.
It so happened last Saturday that the pilots, whose names were withheld by the airline, refused to take off a TG aircraft bound for Singapore as scheduled when they found out that Phijit was on the passenger list. This resulted in a delay of the TG flight by four hours.
Later on the pilots confessed that the presence of Phijit disturbed their mental balance while they would need to stay 100 per cent physically and mentally fit in order to man the cockpit. They were more willing to face turbulence in midair or to fly with three engines rather than to have Phijit on board.
In retrospect, it was lucky for the passengers, for all their inconvenience, to be left stranded at Don Muang International Airport while their feet were still firmly on the ground.
Both Phijit and Jamsri incurred the wrath of the pilots because they held the pilots in contempt over their plan to ask for a pay rise. This was not “kindergarten stuff” as Chaianan Samudvanija, the THAI’s chairman, would like outsiders to believe. It was a serious business, involving face saving, dignity and honour. Only when Phijit and Jamsri fall on their knees and ask for a pardon will the pilots forgive them.
Otherwise, Phijit and Jamsri will have to fly Royal Cambodian Air or Vietnam Airlines if they want to go for a holiday. Proud as they are, Phijit and Jamsri will never say sorry.
This is what all the THAI blood is about. You don’t have to watch the movies “Bang Rajan” or “Suriyothai” to know how thick the THAI blood is.
While the airline is trying to sort out its internal problems, innocent travellers are left unattended. They don’t want to have anything to do with the conflict between the THAI union and the pilots. All they need is a safe flight, with good and efficient service – smooth as silk.
However, travellers who plan to fly THAI can never know in advance whether Phijit or Jamsri are booked on the same flight or not. To play it safe, they will have to ask, seek a confirmation, get a reconfirmation and doublecheck the reconfirmation as to whether or not Phijit or Jamsri are on the passenger list with them.
The following is the kind of query that a passenger is advised to follow when he or she plans to book a TG flight in order to avoid any inconvenience.
Passenger: “I am planning to fly to Singapore next Saturday with my wife for a honeymoon. Do you have two tickets?
Ticketing officer: “Yes, we do have. What time do you want to fly – in the morning or in the afternoon?”
Passenger: “It does not matter so long as Phijit or Jamsri are not on the same flight with me and my wife.”
Ticketing officer: “Excuse me, who are Phijit and Jamsri?”
Passenger: “I mean Phijit Robsirikul and Jamsri Sukchoterat. How come you’re an airline officer and you don’t know Phijit and Jamsri? I would not want to fly with them because they are on your pilots’ blacklist.”
Ticketing officer: “Oh, I see. You’re not the first to call and check this out.”
The ticketing officer punches the computer for a while before coming back on the phone.
Ticketing officer: “Well, thank God. Phijit and Jamsri won’t be flying to Singapore next Saturday.”
Passenger: “Are you sure?”
Ticketing officer: “I certainly am.”
Passenger: “But could they travel under any other names?”
Ticketing officer: “That I wouldn’t know.”
Passenger: “Can you check it out?”
Ticketing officer: “That would be difficult if not impossible to do because Phijit and Jamsri wouldn’t tell anybody if they were to change their names.”
Passenger: “Then how can I find out?”
Ticketing officer: “You might probably want to call back and check again.”
Passenger: “I will, but if Phijit and Jamsri are on the same flight with me, I will sue your airline if your pilots parachute in midair.
Ticketing officer: “We’re sorry about that. But we’ll make sure that your own parachute is under your seat.”