Far Eastern Air Transport (FAT) is not facing any threat that would cause it to suspend flights, Minister of Transportation and Communications Hochen Tan (賀陳旦) said yesterday, adding that the airline has over the past four months met flight safety standards laid out by the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).
The airline’s operations and financial soundness once again became the focus of a meeting of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, following a report by the Chinese-language magazine Mirror Media that it might suspend flights due to a worsening financial situation.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that the average age of the airline’s fleet is 22 years, with the oldest aircraft having been in use for 26 years.
Loans that the airline had secured from banks to finance its operations could be problematic, as loans are supposedly given to carriers that provide reliable transportation, he said.
The airline only set up a trust account at the request of lawmakers, Lee said, adding that funds in the account should not be less than the carrier’s revenue from ticket sales.
He asked Hochen whether the airline would suspend flights as its financial situation worsens, saying that as it offers flights to the nation’s outlying islands, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications should have backup plans in case the airline suspends operations.
Hochen said that the airline is not facing any threat that would cause it to suspend operations.
While the carrier’s operations were somewhat unstable in the first half of this year, they have gradually gotten back on track after it sought assistance from a foreign firm in August, he said.
The airline added one new aircraft to its fleet last month, Hochen said, adding that it has over the past four months met the CAA’s flight safety standards.
“The airline has to first ensure that passengers’ interests will not be compromised and workers’ rights should be protected as well should something happen to its operations,” he said.
The carrier has sufficient funds in the trust account, Hochen said, adding that it would soon be asked to submit a timeline on the addition of new aircraft to its fleet.
Far Eastern said in a statement that it does not have any operational or financial troubles.
“Some people have used the media to spread false information since a court approved Far Eastern’s financial restructuring plan in October 2015,” the company said. “Our legal department has collected evidence and filed a lawsuit against Mirror Media over the unsubstantiated report.”
Far Eastern on Sept. 14 submitted a flight safety and financial improvement plan to the ministry and CAA, it said, adding that it established the trust account to protect consumers.
Operations have been profitable since they resumed in 2015, the airline said.
The CAA said in a statement that Far Eastern’s flight hours have been limited to 1,350 per month due the need for sufficient time to maintain aging aircraft, adding that it would continue to closely monitor the airline’s operations.
“As a precautionary measure to manage the potential financial risks that Far Eastern might face, we have asked the airline to address issues arising from its use of bank loans, which the company promised to resolve by the end of this year,” the CAA said.