India’s aviation safety regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered Ajay Singh-promoted SpiceJet to curtail its schedule by 50 per cent for the next eight weeks to ensure the airline sustains its “efforts for safe and reliable air transport service”. This was done in the aftermath of the airline witnessing a spate of safety-related incidents over the last few months that brought the low-cost carrier in regulatory spotlight. SpiceJet said in a statement that the regulatory missive will not impact its operations.
In an interim order issued on Wednesday, the DGCA said that over the next eight weeks, SpiceJet will be subjected to “enhanced surveillance” by the regulator, and any increase in number of departures above the 50 per cent cap will be “subject to airline demonstrating to the satisfaction of DGCA” that it has sufficient technical support and financial resource to safely and efficiently undertake increased capacity.
As per the approved Summer Schedule for 2022, which is effective till October 29, SpiceJet was to operate 4,192 departures every week. According to industry executives, SpiceJet has not been operating at full capacity over the last few months.
In a statement early Thursday morning, the airline said all of its flights departed as per schedule during the day, and attributed some of its services getting dropped to the lean travel season.
“There has been absolutely no impact on our schedule following yesterday’s order by the regulator. This has been possible as SpiceJet, like other airlines, had already rescheduled its flight operations due to the current lean travel season,” the airline said.
What have been the DGCA’s observations?
In its Wednesday order, the DGCA noted that it has been observed that SpiceJet has been taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents, but the airline needs to sustain efforts for safe and reliable air transport service.
On July 6, the DGCA had issued a show-cause notice to SpiceJet in light of 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 from April 1 this year till date have been reviewed, and it was found that “poor internal safety oversight” and “inadequate maintenance actions” has resulted in degradation of safety margins.
The regulator had also flagged SpiceJet’s poor financial condition in the notice, along with its potential consequence on flight safety.
A day before DGCA’s show-cause notice was issued, three SpiceJet aircraft suffered safety-related incidents, including a freighter aircraft, which was heading to Chongqing in China, returning to Kolkata after 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, while its Kandla-Mumbai flight did priority landing in Maharashtra’s capital city 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.
However, 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.