By Hemal Gosai
SpiceJet Flights Limited in Light of Safety Issues
Earlier in the week, it was announced that Indian aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, ordered SpiceJet to cut its schedule in half for the next eight week. The airline will only be able to fly a maximum of 50 percent of its flights while under “enhanced surveillance” by the DGCA. The news was initially reported by Ajay Awtaney, an aviation journalist based in India, in a tweet on Wednesday.
This comes after a string of issues the airline has been facing in terms of airline safety and operations. SpiceJet aircraft were involved in nearly 10 incidents between June 19 and July 5. These incidents range from severe mechanical issues to smoke filling the cabin in-flight.
The decision was made after a number of inspections and other investigations done by the DGCA. The regulatory authority didn’t express confidence in SpiceJet’s handling of the situation and response to the show cause notice sent by the DGCA. In order for the number of flights to be increased during this eight-week period, the airline will need to show that it has “sufficient technical support and financial resources to safely and efficiently undertake such enhanced capacity”.
Previous investigations have also shown the airline lacks adequate safety oversight and has substandard maintenance resulting in degradation of safety. This along with the most recent investigation findings show a systemic issue with SpiceJet that is not being resolved.
SpiceJet insists that there will be no flight cancellations because of this order since the airline is already flying at half capacity due to thin demand during the summer. This also comes at a time when a significant number of travelers are actively avoiding the airline. According to a survey conducted by LocalCircles, 44 percent of fliers surveyed said they are avoiding traveling on SpiceJet due to safety concerns. This is compared to 21 percent who are avoiding Air India and IndiGo.
This is a bit bizarre. If what SpiceJet said is true, then it’s likely the DGCA knew this. If they did, then it’s a laughable attempt at trying to take action. On the other hand if this isn’t true, then it’s just SpiceJet directly lying to passengers.
Adding to these issues are SpiceJet’s financial woes. A DGCA investigation last year showed the airline is habitually late in paying suppliers and vendors which has resulted in a shortage of spare parts. In addition, the lessor of three of the airline’s aircraft is pushing the Indian government to deregister the aircraft due to unpaid lease payments. These three aircraft are formerly Jet Airways Boeing 737s for which SpiceJet took over the leases when Jet Airways suspended operations.
It’s also most likely going to face some legal troubles since the planes also still feature the Jet Airways livery. When SpiceJet took the aircraft the airline simply stuck a SpiceJet decal over the Jet Airways text on the aircraft and covered up part of the Jet Airways logo on the tail.
Jet Airways is currently in the process of coming back to life later this year and has asked the DGCA to compel SpiceJet to remove the Jet Airways livery off of these planes in order to prevent any confusion when the airline restarts operations.
Overall, things aren’t looking that great for SpiceJet. It is facing problems from every direction and it is unclear if it will be able to successfully handle all of the challenges as they come. The airline is continuing to bleed money and its share price is in the gutter.