Spice Jet asked to operate at 50% capacity by DGCA
It looks like the cup of woes for SpiceJet is overflowing with more problems on hand. In the latest development, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) instructed SpiceJet to operate only 50% of its flights over the next eight weeks till the time the DGCA is reassured that SpiceJet is in a position to run a safe and reliable air transport service. However, Spice Jet has assured that this would not result in any ticket cancellations, since it had already rescheduled most of its flights due to the lean period. However, there are problems galore.
During this period, as per the DGCA, SpiceJet will be subjected to enhanced surveillance, closer monitoring and a liability to show rapid improvement in its safety measures and the quality of its service. Only after the airline demonstrates that it has sufficient technical support and financial resources to safely and efficiently undertake increased capacity; would the airline be permitted to run at more than 50% of its capacity. From a costing point of view, it is likely to add more slack to SpiceJet as idle resources are a big drain on an airline.
These restrictions would apply for 8 weeks and any further change will only be subject to the DGCA being fully satisfied that there was a visible improvement in their performance. Between now and October 2022, Spice Jet was to operate a total of 4,192 departures every week. However, the impact of the DGCA order essentially means that Spice Jet cannot operate more than 2,096 flights per week for the next eight weeks. SpiceJet has reassured its passengers that things are under control and would not impact their travel plans.
The concerns of DGCA are not hard to fathom. In the last few weeks, there have been a chain of such incidents where passenger safety has been severely compromised. This is a follow up to the show cause notice issued to SpiceJet by DGCA following the rising number of air safety incidents witnessed by Spice Jet. The DGCA found that poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions had resulted in a sharp degradation of safety margins. As DGCA put it, passenger safety and security was simply indisputable.
But there is more to it, beyond the safety measures. If you look at the show cause notice, DGCA has flagged the airline’s financial condition (which is rather precarious) and which apparently led to the shortage of spare parts. DGCA has also revealed in the show cause notice that Spice Jet had been operating on cash & carry basis, which is normally when payments are not made on time. In addition, DGCA also pointed out that the suppliers and approved vendors were not being paid on regular basis leading to shortage of spares.
The problem is the frequency of such close shaves that Spice Jet has had and passengers can always hope to be lucky. Recently, 3 such aircraft reported safety-related incidents were reported. Firstly, a freighter aircraft headed to Chongqing in China had to return to Kolkata since the weather radar was not working. In another incident, Spice Jet flight from Delhi to Dubai had to be diverted to Karachi due to malfunctioning fuel indicator. The Kandla to Mumbai flight did priority landing in Mumbai after cracks developed on its windshield.
DGCA noted that even prior to these above lapses, Spice Jet had suffered a series of such unsavoury incidents including smoke in the cabin, fuselage door warnings and cabin depressurisation. Obviously, the DGCA has decided that enough was enough with respect to lax safety standards at Spice Jet.
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