FOLLOWING THE recent spate of safety-related incidents reported on its planes, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Wednesday ordered SpiceJet to operate only 50 per cent of its flights for the next eight weeks to ensure that the airline sustains its “efforts for safe and reliable air transport service”.
In a statement, the airline said it had already “rescheduled its operations” due to the “lean travel season”, and there would be “no flight cancellations”.
The aviation safety regulator, in its interim order, said SpiceJet will be subjected to “enhanced surveillance” during this period, and any increase over the 50 per cent cap will be “subject to the airline demonstrating to the satisfaction of DGCA” that it has “sufficient technical support and financial resources to safely and efficiently undertake such increased capacity”.
“In view of the findings of various spot checks, inspections and the reply to the showcause notice submitted by SpiceJet, for the continued sustenance of safe and reliable transport service, the number of departures of SpiceJet is hereby restricted to 50 per cent of the number of departures approved under summer schedule 2022 for a period of eight weeks,” the DGCA said in its order.
As per the approved summer schedule for 2022, which is effective till October 29, SpiceJet was to operate 4,192 departures every week. The DGCA order means that it cannot operate more than 2,096 flights per week for the next eight weeks.
“We are in receipt of the DGCA order and will act as per directions of the regulator. Due to the current lean travel season, SpiceJet, like other airlines, had already rescheduled its flight operations. Hence, there will be absolutely no impact on our flight operations. We want to reassure our passengers and travel partners that our flights will operate as per schedule in the coming days and weeks. There will be no flight cancellation as a consequence of this order,” a SpiceJet spokesperson said.
“DGCA’s observation that SpiceJet is taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents is very encouraging and we will continue to work under the close guidance of the regulator,” the spokesperson said.
According to industry executives, SpiceJet has not been operating at full capacity over the last few months.
On July 6, the DGCA had issued a showcause notice to SpiceJet following the rising number of air safety incidents witnessed by the low-cost airline. The aviation safety regulator, in its notice, mentioned that the various incidents, since April 1 this year, had been reviewed, and it was found that “poor internal safety oversight” and “inadequate maintenance actions” had resulted in degradation of safety margins.
In its showcause notice, the DGCA also flagged the airline’s financial condition that has led to shortage of spare parts. “…financial assessment carried out by DGCA in September 2021 has also revealed that airline is operating on cash & carry and suppliers/ approved vendors are not being paid on regular basis leading to shortage of spares…,” it said.
In its order on Wednesday, the DGCA noted that while SpiceJet has been taking measures to check the incidents, the airline needs to sustain its efforts for safe and reliable service. Between July 9 and July 13, the regulator conducted 53 spot checks of 48 SpiceJet aircraft but did not find any major violations of safety guidelines, it said.
A day before the DGCA issued its showcause notice, three SpiceJet aircraft reported safety-related incidents, including a freighter aircraft, which was heading to Chongqing in China but had to return to Kolkata as the pilots realised after take-off that its weather radar was not working. The same day, the airline’s Delhi-Dubai flight was diverted to Karachi due to a malfunctioning fuel indicator and its Kandla-Mumbai flight reported priority landing in Mumbai after cracks developed on its windshield mid-air.
Prior to this, the airline suffered a series of incidents including smoke in the cabin, fuselage door warnings and cabin depressurisation.