The aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), on Wednesday ordered low-cost carrier SpiceJet to operate only 50% of its approved flights under the summer schedule for a period of eight weeks.
The action follows DGCA’s inspection, spot checks and examination of the airline’s reply to the show-cause noticed served to it following eight incidents of technical snags in eighteen days.
In a response to the DGCA action, SpiceJet said in a statement that due to the ongoing lean travel season it had already rescheduled its flights. Hence, there will be no impact on its operations and no cancellation of flights as a consequence of the regulator’s order.
“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,” the statement said.
Over the past few months, several SpiceJet flights have either turned back to their originating station or made a landing with degraded safety margins. The airline, though, is taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents, according to the DGCA.
For any increase in the number of departures beyond 50% during the eight-week period, SpiceJet will have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the DGCA that it has sufficient technical support and financial resource to safely and efficiently undertake such an enhanced capacity, the order said.
“During the eight-week period, the airline shall be subjected to ‘enhanced surveillance’ by the DGCA. Further decision in the matter shall be taken thereafter,” it added.
After reviewing the reported malfunction incidents with SpiceJet aircraft, the DGCA observed that there was poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions, resulting in degradation of the safety margins. Besides, a financial assessment carried out by the aviation regulator in September 2021 revealed that the airline was operating on a ‘cash-and-carry’ model and suppliers or approved vendors were not being paid on a regular basis, leading to the shortage of spares and frequent invoking of minimum equipment lists.
On July 5, the DGCA issued a show-cause notice to SpiceJet, noting that the airline had failed to establish a safe, efficient and reliable air transport service. The airline was given a time span of three weeks to respond to it.
On the same day, three separate incidents happened with SpiceJet aircraft – a Delhi-Dubai flight was diverted to Karachi due to a malfunctioning fuel indicator, a Kandla-Mumbai flight did priority landing in Mumbai after cracks developed on its windshield mid-air and a freighter aircraft heading to Chongqing in China returned to Kolkata as the pilots realised after the take-off that its weather radar was not working.
SpiceJet submitted its reply to the show-cause notice on July 25. “The same has been reviewed at an appropriate level and it has been observed that SpiceJet is taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents. However, the airline needs to sustain these efforts for safe and reliable air transport service,” the DGCA said in its order.