Thailand’s Flying Lantern Festival Causes Flight Delays

BenarNews Staff
151123-TH-lantern-620 Thais light lanterns during the Yipeng Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 2012.
Courtesy of Tourism Authorities of Thailand

An official at Chiang Mai International Airport in northern Thailand said Tuesday that both domestic and international airlines have canceled or rescheduled flights during peak hours of a three day lantern-flying festival, to avoid possible damage to the planes.

Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, famed for the rich cultural heritage of its Lanna Kingdom (1292-1775), is celebrating the Yipeng Lantern Festival, Nov. 24 to 26, in conjunction with the nationwide Loy Kratong Festival.

Loy Kratong is scheduled on the full moon night of the 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar (usually November). The festival falls on Nov. 25 this year. Thais float small boats made of banana leaves, laden with candles and incense, in rivers to pay homage to the goddess of water and cleanse their sins.

Chiang Mai has added a tradition of setting lanterns afloat in the evening air to worship Lord Buddha. The lantern festival starts a day earlier and ends a day later.

Chiang Mai airport official Apinya Mahathaiwan told BenarNews on Tuesday that 11 domestic and international airlines had cancelled 102 flights out of fear of possible accidents.

She added that 12 airlines had rescheduled 67 inbound and 67 outbound fights to avoid peak lantern time.

Cooking gas tank powers lanterns

The Chiang Mai province administration has announced that five districts adjacent to the airport are lantern-free zones.

People do not realize the danger posed by flying lanterns because no planes have crashed, but there have been many incidents of lanterns damaging planes that fly into the airport, an airline pilot who asked not to be named told BenarNews.

“I learned of some incidents involving lanterns with light frames hitting a few planes of other airlines, but luckily they didn’t get into the engine to cause engine failure,” he said.

“I witnessed sizeable, rigid-frame lanterns powered by small picnic gas tanks as I fly by. That can cause a plane crash,” he said.

In the old days, lanterns were made from bamboo frames and lit with a small kerosene candle.

Chiang Mai resident Bussaba Sivasomboon said many lanterns are released after 6 p.m. She said that flying lanterns are not only a danger to planes in flight, but also have started fires.

“A few years ago a lantern landed near my home and it burned a tree,” she said.


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