It's Day 4 since the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) suddenly grounded 11 A320neo aircraft on safety concerns - 8 of them belonging to IndiGo and the rest to GoAir - and the chaos over cancelled flights continues. The good news is that the two airlines are slowly getting their acts together in juggling flight schedules - they reportedly cancelled 48 flights yesterday, down from Tuesday's record of 65 flights. Starting today till March 22, 36 IndiGo flights will remain cancelled, and 18 flights between March 22 and 24. Meanwhile, GoAir has cancelled 8 flights during March 15-20 and 10 flights between March 16 and March 24.
The bad news is that, contrary to previous media reports, air passenger woes won't end by March 24. According to the IndiGo website, as many as 26 flights have been cancelled over March 25-31, a majority originating in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Chennai.
This means that the current trend of spiked airfares on several routes is likely to linger for a while. On Tuesday, a one way Delhi Mumbai flight reportedly cost over Rs 12,000. Booking a last-minute non-stop flight today on the same sector will set you back by at least Rs 14,000. "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," Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C) at Yatra.com told The Economic Times.
Things will get markedly worse if the Delhi High Court rules in favour of advocate Yeshwant Shenoy. According to The Times of India, the latter filed a writ petition yesterday seeking the grounding of entire fleet of A320neos in the country till the technical problems are solved. Given that India boasts 45 of these aircrafts powered by Pratt & Whitney engines - of which 32 are with IndiGo - this makes a pretty scary future. The petition adds that these aircrafts have been facing engine problems since their introduction in India in March 2016.
In fact, last month, the DGCA had grounded three IndiGo A320neos boasting two PW1100 engines in compliance with an emergency airworthiness directive issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency on February 9 this year. This, in turn, followed reports of "several" in-flight engine shut downs in the A320 neo fleet worldwide fitted with PW1100 engines from serial number 450 and beyond. Previously, on noting repetitive defects on these aircrafts, the DGCA had even ordered 69 engine replacements in 18 months.
The latest DGCA directive on Monday, which proactively grounded aircrafts with even a single engine from the affected serial numbers, came hours after the third reported mid-air engine failure in two weeks. "Both IndiGo and GoAir have been told not to refit these engines, which are spare with them in their inventory," said the DGCA. So the problemwill take a while to get resolved. According to broking firm Edelweiss Financial Services, this "will hurt IndiGo in the near term" as it may lose market share to domestic peers.
An official statement from Pratt and Whitney said, "We are working closely with our customers to minimize disruption. The corrective action has been approved and we have already begun to deliver production engines with the upgraded configuration."
However, in this age of technological advancement, where worldwide engine failures reportedly average around 25 annually in multi-engine aircrafts, what's happened in the Indian skies in the past two weeks is a pretty damning record.
With PTI inputs