Explained: Why SpiceJet flights have been reduced by 50 per cent


Several technical malfunctions — eight incidents in 17 days — have led the DGCA, the aviation regulator, to cut SpiceJet flights by half for the next eight weeks. The low-cost carrier will undergo ‘enhanced surveillance’ during this time. Will it survive this turbulence?

SpiceJet has assured flyers and travel partners that the DGCA order won’t affect their operations. PTI

After a string of malfunctions, budget airline SpiceJet has been put on notice by the aviation regulator of the country, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

Authorities announced that the airline will curtail their flight operations to 50 per cent for the next eight weeks.
The DGCA said during this period, the budget carrier will be subjected to “enhanced surveillance”.

“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,” said the DGCA in an order.

The aviation watchdog also added: “Any increase in the number of departures beyond 50 per cent” would be subject to the airline “demonstrating to the satisfaction of DGCA that it has sufficient technical support and financial resource to safely and efficiently undertake such enhanced capacity”, said the order.

On 11 March, the DGCA approved 4,192 weekly domestic flights of SpiceJet for this year’s summer schedule, which ends on 29 October.

The order means the budget carrier will be able to operate not more than 2,096 weekly flights for the next eight weeks.

Glitches at SpiceJet

The action comes after the airline saw at least eight incidents of technical malfunction between 19 June and 5 July.

On 19 June, the low-cost carrier reported its first of many technical malfunctions; an engine on the carrier’s Delhi-bound aircraft with 185 passengers caught fire soon after its take off from Patna airport and the plane had to make an emergency landing within minutes. It was later reported that the engine malfunction took place because of a bird hit.

On that very day, the Ajay Singh-led carrier witnessed another malfunction when a flight for Jabalpur had to return to Delhi due to cabin pressurisation issues.

Five days later, on 24 June, the fuselage door warning lit up on a SpiceJet Q400 aircraft (Guwahati-Kolkata) flight. The fuselage warning light lit up when it was on ‘rotation’, forcing them to abandon their journeys and return. The pilots of the flight found that the warning was coming from the baggage door at the rear end of the plane.

A similar incident took place a day later on 25 June and another plane — a Patna to Guwahati flight was cancelled at the Patna airport after the aircraft’s fuselage door warning light lit up. Here too, it was found that the warning had come from the baggage door at the rear end of the aircraft.

The airline witnessed another snag on 2 July Jabalpur-bound flight made an emergency landing in Delhi after the smoke alarm was triggered. The aircraft took off from Delhi, and while climbing past 5,000 feet, the crew noticed smoke in the cabin along with the lavatory smoke alarm sound going off.

DGCA officials, as per a News9 report, had noted in a preliminary investigation that there was oil leakage in one of the engines of the Q400 aircraft and that was likely the reason for the smoke in the plane.

Troubles mounted for the airline as on 5 July, it reported three more incidents. In the first, a Boeing 737 Max aircraft on its way to Dubai from Delhi with 150 people on board landed in Karachi, Pakistan after it developed a technical glitch. Pilots of the Dubai-bound flight noticed unusual fuel reduction in one of the plane’s fuel tanks, following which they decided to divert the plane to the closest airport, officials said. The flight was cruising at 36,000 feet in the Pakistan airspace when the glitch was observed.

The second snag was when a plane from Kandla in Gujarat made a priority landing in Mumbai Tuesday after its windshield cracked at 23,000 feet altitude.

The third incident saw a freighter aircraft, which was heading to Chongqing in China, returning to Kolkata as the pilots realised after the take-off that its weather radar was not working.

SpiceJet reacts

Plagued by problems, SpiceJet reacted to the DGCA order on Wednesday, assuring passengers and travel partners that operations would continue smoothly.

“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,” it said in a statement.

It also tried to imbibe confidence in flyers by adding, “The DGCA’s observation that SpiceJet is taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents is very encouraging and the airline will continue to work under the close guidance of the regulator.”

With inputs from agencies

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