IS­SUE Around 13,000 pas­sen­gers af­fected as both air­lines ground flights, in­dus­try ex­perts say ticket prices may go up

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Front Page - Faizan Haidar and Neha Tri­pathi let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ ▪

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 Ya­

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.

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