Following a missive from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week, 14 Airbus A320neo aircraft – 11 belonging to IndiGo and three belonging to GoAir – are now out of operation. Due to the sudden reduction in capacity, these airlines have been forced to cancel a number of flights over a period of 10 days till March 24, which is when the winter schedule will conclude. According to the list of cancelled flights provided by these airlines on their websites, IndiGo has cancelled a total of 304 flights till March 24, whereas GoAir has canceled 138.
Both these airlines have Airbus A320neo aircraft in their fleet equipped with Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G engines, which have been dogged with performance issues since last year. While, earlier, the power plants faced problems pertaining to premature degradation of a carbon seal and combustion chamber, the current issues pertain to a knife-edge seal in the high-pressure compressor. The knife-edge seal, which is supposed to withstand very high temperatures, does not do so and expands unexpectedly causing in-flight engine shut downs.
Citing a lack of commitment from the US-based engine manufacturer on when the issues will be resolved, the Indian regulator ordered the two airlines to ground the aircraft with affected engines, which has led to these operators canceling the flights. The DGCA, in its regulations which detail the facilities to be provided by airlines due to denied boarding, cancellation of flights and delayed flights, has said that airlines must inform the passenger of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure and arrange alternate flights or refunds as acceptable to the passenger.
However, in this case since the DGCA order compelled airlines to immediately ground their aircraft causing an upheaval in the flight schedules, separate requirements will apply. “In case the passengers are informed of the cancellation less than two weeks before and up to 24 hours of the scheduled time of departure, the airline shall offer alternate flight allowing them to depart within two hours of their booked scheduled time of departure,” the civil aviation requirement reads.
Upon being asked specific questions about the measures taken by the airline to mitigate the inconvenience faced by its passengers, IndiGo refused to comment and pointed to the statements issued by the company earlier. In a statement to the stock exchanges on Wednesday, IndiGo said: “Given that we have multiple flights to the same destination, we have proactively tried to re-accommodate all our affected passengers on other flights. All affected passengers have been given the option to either choose another flight at no additional cost or cancel their booking and get a full refund without any cancellation charges”.
GoAir, in response to an e-mail questionnaire by The Indian Express, said that the airline was altering its flight schedules to accommodate the affected passengers. GoAir is also offering its passengers with the option to select another flights at no additional cost or opt for full refund in case they opt for cancellation. “GoAir is informing customers well in advance through SMS, email and voice calls. GoAir prides itself on being committed to the highest standards of safety and compliance and we are working around the clock to alleviate the inconvenience caused to our valued customers,” a GoAir spokesperson said.
However, if the airlines fail to inform their passengers of the cancellation, then such passengers will be entitled for a compensation in addition to the ticket refund. In case of the flight having block time up to 1 hour, the passenger will be entitled to a compensation of Rs 5,000 or booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, whichever is less. Similarly, the compensation amount is Rs 7,500 for flight with block time of more than 1 hour and up to 2 hours; and for flights with block time more than 2 hours, it is Rs 10,000. It is essential for passengers to provide adequate contact information to the airline while booking the ticket given that the regulation exempts the airline from the obligation of financial compensation to the customer in case adequate contact information is not provided at the time of making booking or when the ticket for firm travel on the selected flight is issued.
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