Indigo flight cancellations: ‘Mismatch’ in pilot arrival led to crisis, says airline COO

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New Delhi | Updated: February 15, 2019 11:27:18 PM

The airline said that it would deploy around 50% of the capacity added to go on international routes.

indigo, aviation sector, aviation industryIndiGo has about 1260 captains and the airline says it has enough trainees, enough simulators and sufficient number of eligible pilots to be upgraded

Clearing air on its worst ever crisis that has forced market leader IndiGo to cancel at least 30 flights per day till March end, the company’s top executive, Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, COO, told FE that the reason for flight cancelations is a slight ‘mismatch’ in the number of the expat pilots the company hoped to add but wasn’t able to do so due to varied reasons as inducting expat pilots is a prolonged process. He assured that the flight operations would be restored to normalcy from April.

“We had planned an induction of 120 expats, of these 20 have already joined and the remaining will join the airline by June,” he said. Not clarifying the delay in inducting these pilots, the airline said, “Inducting expats is a prolonged process, there is no specific reason attributable to a slightly longer process than anticipated. The process also includes regulatory authorities abroad.”

He also denied categorically that the airline has a pilot shortage and that the aggressively growing market leader that added an aircraft per week last year had over committed itself in a bid to capture both domestic and international markets and was left facing flight cancelations in return.

“We have 6.65 captains per aircraft which is a comfortable number to have for our fleet size,” Prock-Schauer said contrasting it with some of the domestic carriers’ ratio of about just five. IndiGo that currently flies a fleet of 200 aircraft and does 1300 daily flights is canceling about 2 per cent of flights across its network till March and will be adding capacity at around 25% next year, of which a large part will go international.

The airline said that it would deploy around 50% of the capacity added to go on international routes. “Hence our share of international capacity will go up significantly from our currently 15% capacity share. IndiGo has about 1260 captains and the airline says it has enough trainees, enough simulators and sufficient number of eligible pilots to be upgraded to meet this expansion of its network and the increased international flying that demands more crew.

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Responding to the question that could IndiGo have handled the ongoing crisis in a better manner that would not have resulted in a panic situation as the airline suddenly cancelled flights starting last week, Prock-Schauer said, “We could have done it better but we do a lot of high frequency routes that allow us to accommodate sudden changes.”

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