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Why Indigo has cancelled so many flights up till March-end

While the airline claims that it is adjusting its flight schedule to stabilize operations after the chaos caused by the recent Delhi hailstorm, the buzz is that pilot and crew shortage is actually to blame. 

twitter-logoBusinessToday.In | February 14, 2019 | Updated 14:29 IST
Why Indigo has cancelled so many flights up till March-end
IndiGo to cancel 30 flights daily till March-end

IndiGo, the country's largest airline, has been cancelling several of its flights since Saturday, but the pace has picked up in the last two days. After cancelling more than 30 flights on Tuesday, the airline yesterday cancelled 49 flights, and the pattern is expected to continue for over a month.

"IndiGo is slightly adjusting its flight schedule in the coming days by approximately 30 flights per day. This is in order to stabilize the network and operations impacted due to various ongoing Notams [notices to airmen] and predicted bad weather in the coming days," the airline said in a statement. Notams are advisories issued to alert pilots about potential hazards and other information that could affect flight operations.

The intense hailstorm that turned Delhi into a winter wonderland last week had disrupted operations for many airlines, causing a total of 36 flights to be diverted. "As part of recovering our schedule, the positioning of the crew and aircraft had to be readjusted. As a result, a number of flights were cancelled," said IndiGo, adding that this "resulted in extended duty times, which then made it necessary to re-roster our crew and optimise our operations". The curtailment of flights will reportedly continue till end-March. The carrier added that passengers are in the process of being informed and re-accommodated.

Flights were cancelled in the Kolkata-Delhi, Kolkata-Nagpur, Kolkata-Chennai, Kolkata-Bangalore, Hyderabad-Kolkata, Hyderabad-Bangalore, Ahmedabad-Udaipur, Ahmedabad-Bangalore, Mumbai-Delhi, and Bangalore-Raipur routes, among others, Mint reported.

"These medium term cancellations have been made to minimise the impact on passengers as alternative travel options have been offered well in advance," IndiGo clarified, adding that the cancellations represent 2% of its flights and that operations would be normalised completely by March 31. The airline, which has cornered more than 41% of the domestic market share, typically operates around 1,300 flights daily.

However, the buzz is that a more serious problem than crew management is plaguing IndiGo: pilot shortage. "The airline is facing a shortage of commanders and pilots and this is forcing the airline to cancel flights from across stations," a source in the aviation industry told PTI.

Also Read: IndiGo offers fares as low as Rs 899 for domestic routes, Rs 3,999 for international flights

"IndiGo has been aggressively increasing capacity and has been facing crew and pilot shortage for quite some time now. This has likely caused the disruptions during the past few days as there were no major issues that could have cancelled or delayed so many flights," a source in the know told the daily. The operations of the other airlines were reportedly not as badly disrupted as that of IndiGo between February 8 and 10.

The budget carrier accounted for close to half of the over 120 planes inducted by domestic airlines in 2018 and aviation consultancy CAPA India's latest forecast sees the Indian fleet expanding by more than 90 aircraft in FY20. Moreover, with the low-cost carriers (LCCs), including IndiGo, expected to post a combined profit of $100-150 million in the coming fiscal - against combined losses to the tune of $700-800 million by Air India, Jet Airways and Vistara - most of the new aircraft deliveries will clearly be bagged by the LCCs.

On Tuesday, a senior official said that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was looking into the "issue" of flight cancellations by IndiGo.

Edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal

With agency inputs

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