INDIGO, GOAIR CANCEL 66 FLIGHTS
ISSUE Around 13,000 passengers affected as both airlines ground flights, industry experts say ticket prices may go up
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Two Indian carriers, IndiGo and GoAir, cancelled at least 65 daily flights on Tuesday, a day after the national aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), grounded 11 Airbus A320 Neo (New Engine Option) aircraft over engine glitches.
The country’s largest carrier, IndiGo, cancelled 47 of its 1,000odd daily flights. The airline, operated by InterGlobe Aviation, operates a fleet of 155 Airbus aircraft out of which 11 are grounded — eight on Monday and three in February. Twenty-five of these cancelled flights were from Delhi and the rest from Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and other cities.
The Wadia group-run GoAir cancelled 18 flights originating from Bengaluru, Cochin, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, Lucknow, and Delhi. Three of the airlines’ aircraft were grounded on Monday.
Each Airbus A320 Neo carries around 180 passengers and it is estimated that around 13,000 passengers were affected by the cancellations. Both airlines said they were trying to accommodate passengers in other flights.
A DGCA official, who asked not to be named, said the problem would persist at least till June as the engine manufacturer needed time to provide replacements.
The cancellation might push up ticket prices, industry insiders said. “We have seen fares of over ₹12,000 for a one-way Delhi-Mumbai flight for Tuesday. With current load factors at over 90%, this reduction in capacity is likely to have a 5%-10% impact on fares on key routes in the short to medium term,” said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer (B2C) at travel portal Yatra.com.
The DGCA grounded A320 Neo twin-engine aircraft powered by a particular batch (ESN No. 450) of Pratt and Whitney (P&W) engines that feature a seal that causes vibrations.
Monday’s decision came hours after a Lucknow-bound IndiGo flight was forced to return to Ahmedabad after suffering a midair engine failure. The DGCA has asked both airlines to not refit the engines with spares.
A similar engine failure had occurred on a IndiGo flight earlier this month in Mumbai, and on February 24 a GoAir aircraft was grounded in Leh.
IndiGo had grounded three A320 Neo aircraft in February due to glitches in both engines but had been allowed to fly eight aircraft with one affected engine, though not beyond two hours.
The DGCA decision was at odds with the European Aviation Safety Agency, the primary regulator for Airbus planes, which says the jets are safe if they have a single affected engine.
“We are working closely with our customers to minimise disruption. The corrective action has been approved and we have already begun to deliver production engines with the upgraded configuration. We are working to mitigate the AOG situation by the end of the second quarter,” Pratt & Whitney said in a statement.
IndiGo said it cancelled less than 5% of its daily flights.
“Our teams swiftly re-accommodated the passengers on alternate flights and fully refunded the fares to any customer who preferred that... in the meantime, our future schedules have been adjusted already and passengers informed accordingly,” the airline said in a statement.
“GoAir has complied with the DGCA directive by grounding the late serial number PW GTF engines. This has resulted in the cancellation of some flights originating out of eight centres. Flight schedules are being altered to accommodate those affected. Alternate arrangements are made or offered to minimise impact and inconvenience; in cases where appropriate, free cancellation and rebooking options have been made available,” the airline spokesperson said.
Union minister Jayant Sinha said, “We have to give paramount priority to safety. There are 43 such engines worldwide, of which 19 are currently in India, used by IndiGo and GoAir. We don’t consider these engines safe as of now and technical analysis is underway. They could be used only when we consider them safe.”
▪ A crowd of passengers at the Mumbai Airport on Tuesday.