In an unprecedented action, Indian aviation regulator DGCA has directed low-cost airline Spicejet to operate only 50 per cent of its flights for eight weeks.
This follows an unusually high number of incidents involving the airline, raising safety concerns.
The curtailment of capacity is unlikely to have any commercial impact on the airline owned by entrepreneur Ajay Singh.
SpiceJet already operates less than 50 per cent of the flights it had filed for the summer schedule.
After the DGCA order, the airline said in a statement that there would be no impact on the airline.
DGCA had in the first week of July issued a show cause notice to SpiceJet for its failure to ensure safe, efficient and reliable services after eight incidents within a month.
The airline was asked to explain in three weeks why no action should be taken against it.
Before that, last year after a financial audit, DGCA found that SpiceJet had inadequate pool of spare parts.
“In view of findings of various spot checks, inspections and the reply to the show cause notice submitted by SpiceJet, for continued sustenance of safe and reliable air transport service, the number of departures of SpiceJet are restricted to 50 per cent of the number of departures approved… for a period of eight weeks,” DGCA said in its interim order on Wednesday.
Sources said that in its response to the notice, SpiceJet pointed out that it was taking action to shore up its manpower in core operational departments like engineering, flight safety and operation and maintenance control.
While the airline had filed for 4,192 flights per week (around 600 daily flights) for the summer, industry sources said the airline had been operating less than 300 flights for the last one month.
“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. 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 airline said in a statement.
However, experts pointed out that, the action is unprecedented as it now clearly shows the DGCA view that the airline has failed to establish a safe and reliable operation.
“Since the regulator doesn’t feel that the airline can maintain a safe and reliable operation, it should have ideally appointed a person of its own to establish a safe operation.
“However, this order sets a precedent even for other operators and DGCA heads that if an operator cannot establish safe operation, its capacity can be curtailed or it can be grounded,” said aviation safety expert Captain Amit Singh and founder of NGO, Safety Matters.
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