On account of its Boeing 737 MAX planes being grounded, budget airline SpiceJet on Wednesday cancelled 14 flights — a number that is expected to rise to 30-35 on Thursday.
The flights cancelled on Wednesday include those on sectors such as Delhi-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Mumbai, Mumbai-Kochi, Hyderabad-Bengaluru, Bengaluru-Madurai, Chennai-Guwahati, Chennai-Port Blair, Delhi-Pune, Delhi-Goa among others. The government, taking cognisance of the flight cancellations, has asked airlines to keep fares at reasonable levels although travel experts believe that a total of 50 aircraft being grounded across airlines due to various reasons will cause a spike in fares ahead of the holiday season.
“SpiceJet is rationalising and optimising the use of its Boeing 737NG and Bombardier Q400 aircraft to address the current situation and minimise inconvenience to its passengers. We are evaluating options for augmenting capacity in the coming days through a mix of additional flights and aircraft inductions. We are sure that our operations will be normal very soon,” the airline said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola along with Director General of Civil Aviation BS Bhullar met senior officials of domestic airlines to discuss contingency measures in light of the aircraft groundings. “We will monitor all sectors where cancellations of flights take place and ensure there is no predatory pricing, and if fares are found to be predatory then advisory will be issued to airlines,” Kharola said after the meeting.
Fliers will have to cope with untimely flight cancellations
The grounding of Boeing 737 MAX planes by the aviation safety regulator is expected to lead to troubles for both airlines and passengers. With a total of 50 aircraft being grounded due to various reasons, ranging from safety and financial problems at airlines, passengers will have to cope with untimely cancellations of flights. The government and the airlines are working to ensure smooth operations by accommodating passengers on other flights on similar routes and by allowing airlines to induct more planes. While these nagging issues will disrupt operations in the near term, airlines are hoping return to normalcy in due course.
“The airlines have assured that grounding of 12 aircraft will not have a significant impact on the operations and they have drawn up a plan as per which SpiceJet has cancelled 14 flights out of its 520 daily flights. They have been able to accommodate the passengers in their own system. Tomorrow will be more challenging and 30-35 flights are expected to be cancelled. SpiceJet has said that they have increased the utilisation of other aircraft due to which cancellations will be at a minimum,” Kharola added.
Apart from SpiceJet, two large players — IndiGo and Jet Airways — are also facing pressures on deployed capacity due to shortage in commanders and groundings due to non-payment of dues, respectively. Jet Airways on Wednesday withdrew five more aircraft from service owing to non-payment of lease rentals, taking the total number of such non-operational aircraft to 37.
A search on Google flights on Wednesday afternoon for Delhi-Goa flight for the same day showed the cheapest nonstop fare to be at Rs 7,157, while the next cheapest nonstop fare was at Rs 23,122. For Thursday, the nonstop single trip fares ranged between Rs 6,951 and Rs 10,132. Bhullar said that the regulator has cleared SpiceJet’s proposal to induct two aircraft on wet-lease, and that they are expected to join the airline’s fleet by Friday. “Because of this the cancellations will come down,” he added.
“At least 50 planes are out of action or grounded on the domestic front owing to multiple reasons. That is a significant reduction in domestic airline capacity. The additional capacity coming in is not likely to cover this in the short term, while demand is going to be robust over the next few months because of the school holidays season and surging leisure travel. The shortage of planes and high seat occupancies are expected to push airfares north in the short term. The airfares were at least 15 per cent higher this year compared to last year, and owing to the current situation, airfares are expected to rise further this season.” said Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C), Yatra.com.