India’s aviation regulator, DGCA, had issued a show cause notice to SpiceJet in July 2022 after taking note of a spate of incidents on the airline, such as a cracked windshield and flights returning to airports because of various settings and so on. The airline has been operating with very poorly maintained aircraft (something we all know), and now, even equipment safety is being questioned, given the cash crunch the airline has been operating under for years.
SpiceJet says everything is safe.
SpiceJet claimed, using data from a response filed by the Government of India, that they had a safe operation ongoing. Here is the press release they issued after the Civil Aviation Ministry responded to a question posed by a Member of the Parliament.
DGCA cuts the airline’s schedule by half
On the other hand, the DGCA seems to be not on the same page as the airline concerning the safety of operations of SpiceJet. Yesterday, the DGCA ordered SpiceJet not to fly more than 50% of its approved Summer Schedule 2022 ( March – October 2022) for the next eight weeks following a show-cause notice the DGCA had served on the airline for degraded safety.
The airline has also been put under enhanced surveillance by the DGCA, and it will get its full schedule back only when the airline demonstrates “to the satisfaction of DGCA that it has sufficient technical support and financial resource to safely and efficiently undertake such enhanced capacity.”
Here is the DGCA order in full.
What is unclear, however, is if these 50% departures are only for the domestic schedule or if the international schedule is included. Because if the airline is left to its devices, it will focus on international operations over the domestic schedule.
For SpiceJet, though, it is business as usual, it seems. SpiceJet, caving under financial stress, has been cancelling flights left, right and centre. As per DGCA data for May 2022, SpiceJet was only using 52% of the airline’s slots approved during May 2022. That was the period when due to vacations, a lot many people were travelling around India. It would mean either SpiceJet did not have the planes, or they were offering more flights than they could operate, later consolidating or cancelling the flights they could not operate.
Even in July 2022, the numbers look similar for the airline. For instance, on July 26, the airline seemed to have operated only 204 departures out of the 598 daily departures approved by the DGCA.
And they are telling their employees as such. Here is an internal note circulated by the airline, telling them all is well at the carrier.
To the media as well, SpiceJet has said, “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.”
There is no mention of the truncation of the schedules on the SpiceJet website. On Twitter, however, SpiceJet makes it sound very, by the way.
#SpiceJetStatement: 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. >>
— SpiceJet (@flyspicejet) July 27, 2022
DGCA’s observation that SpiceJet is taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents is very encouraging and we will continue to work under the close guidance of the regulator. <<
— SpiceJet (@flyspicejet) July 27, 2022
The Government of India has ordered SpiceJet to cut 50% of its approved schedule. However, the airline claims it is already running a lower than usual schedule, so there is no need for further flight cuts. What this implies for slot allocations in Winter 2022 is unknown, as the airline would have to use the slots at least 80% of the time if they want to carry it forward into Winter 2022. Still, as we note, SpiceJet has been unable to operate the Summer 2022 schedule with any discipline.
What do you think will be the way forward in this saga of SpiceJet?
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