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The executive chairman of Thai Airways has resigned following allegations that he, his wife and another executive had flown with almost 400 kg of baggage between Tokyo and Bangkok last November.
Wallop Bhukkanasut, the chairman, said most of the more than 40 pieces of luggage belonged to an unnamed but important person and contained fruit to be donated to a Bangkok temple. He tendered his resignation before an internal inquiry could report next week.
The alleged incident, leaked by Thai staff disgruntled at cost-cutting at the lossmaking national carrier, produced widespread outrage in Thailand.
“His resignation has set an ethical standard for the airline’s executives on responsibility,” Ampon Kittiampon, the chairman of the board, said yesterday.
Mr Wallop has also been accused by Thai staff of ordering his baggage to be delivered to the lost and found baggage office to avoid customs duty, an allegation he denies.
Piyasvasti Amranand, Thai’s newly installed president, says he wants to cut costs at the once-respected airline and clear it of the nepotism and culture of entitlement he says has brought it low.
He told the Financial Times in an interview last year that one of his prime targets was freeloading by current and former executives of the airline, many of whom claimed free first class seats as a matter of course.
Union officials at the airline said that Mr Wallop’s excess baggage bill would have cost more than $6,000 had he paid. The airlne has been bleeding cash, reporting a net loss of Bt1.57bn ($47m) for the first nine months of 2009, although traffic did pick up in the last quarter.
Fresh controversy has erupted over flight upgrades used by Korn Chatikavanij, the minister of finance, his wife and family, however. The controversy has been given extra impetus because the finance ministry owns 51 per cent of the airline and Mr Korn’s government came to power vowing to fight corruption.
Mr Korn said the upgrades were paid for with cash or with vouchers he and his wife received as part of their frequent flier programmes, a claim disputed by opposition politicians, who say they will report him to the National Anti-Corruption Commission.