Indian carriers may soon feel like children punished for being late to school. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is planning to implement “slotting” of flights by January 2008. This means any flight that fails to take off on time will be grounded for several hours.
"A delay of 10-15 minutes is permissible but any flight delayed beyond that will be allowed to fly only in the subsequent lean period," said AK Chopra, joint deputy general, DGCA. “For instance, if a flight scheduled to take off at 8 am gets delayed by an hour, it will be allowed to fly only after the peak hour. The idea is to improve on-time performance and lessen air congestion."
What happens to passengers who are stuck in a punished flight? “Passengers will begin to avoid such carriers. That would simply force airlines to improve their on-time performance,” said Chopra.
According to directorate records, national carriers Air India and Indian and low-cost carrier Air Deccan have the most worst on-time performance. In the last year, the three managed to take off on time only on 40-50 per cent of occasions. Other domestic carriers like Kingfisher, Jet Airways, GoAir, SpiceJet and Indigo did much better with 80 per cent on-time performance.
To improve its punctuality by reducing time spent on maintenance of old aircraft, Air Deccan has already replaced two 48-seater ATR 42-320 planes with a new-generation ATR 72-500 fleet. “Our operations strategy is to achieve all departures on schedule. We are pursuing this with clinical incisiveness. We have decided to build a fleet of entirely new aircraft,” said Ramki Sundaram, chief executive officer, Air Deccan.
A SpiceJet spokesperson said: "We have a regular mechanism to monitor our on-time performance. A part of it also depends on the operation of airports."
Industry sources confirmed that 32 percent of the delays were because of external factors like weather and difficulty to contact air traffic controllers. "Sometimes, a passenger has to be offloaded for medical or personal reasons when the flight is about to take off. Also, passengers fall asleep in the lounge or visit the toilet minutes before departure,” said an airline official, requesting anonymity.