The Civil Aviation Ministry has closed the Indian airspace for Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft. The decision was taken during an emergency meeting of Indian airlines with the Civil Aviation Secretary earlier today. The airlines also discussed ways to remedy passenger inconvenience caused due to grounding of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in their fleet. DGCA has already ordered Indian airlines to ground these narrow-body aircraft in their fleet after 4:00pm today.
"As of now, all flights of Boeing 737 Max have been grounded, before the deadline of 4:00 pm. We had a discussion with the airlines as to how they plan to reduce inconvenience to the passengers," Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola told reporters after the meeting.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of action being taken against Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft after one such plane operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed near Addis Ababa, killing 157 passengers, including four passengers. This incident occured a few months after a Boeing 737 Max aircraft of Lion Air went down over Java Sea.
SpiceJet, which has 12 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes in its fleet, cancelled 14 flights today. Most of the passengers from the cancelled flights were accommodated in other SpiceJet flights, while other were given full refund. SpiceJet and Jet Airways are the only air carriers in India that fly Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. The ban is expected to drive air ticket prices further, with frequency of flight cancellations likely to increase in coming days.
Following the crash of Ethiopian Airlines aircraft, aviation regulator DGCA has grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8 planes run by Indian air carriers. Aviation regulaties in several other coutries have also grounded the fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes operated by airlines under their jurisdiction.
China, Indonesia Mongolia, Ethiopia, Oman and UAE have already prohibited their domestic carriers from flying Boeing 737 Max 8 planes. Meanwhile, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, UK and the European Union have closed their airspace to these aircraft. India and New Zealand are the latest additions to this list.
Several carriers, including Cayman Airways, South African airline Comair, Aeromexico and Brazil's Gol Airlines, have independently decided to ground Boeing 737 Max 8 plane in their fleet. Meanwhile, pilots with Argentina's Aerolineas Argentinas reportedly refused to fly the jet.