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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

DGCA to review flights schedule of cash-strapped Jet Airways twice a month

DGCA has approved the winter schedule of Jet Airways, but with the busy summer season approaching, the regulator wants to keep tabs on how many flights the airline is able to operate. In case the number of cancellations is found to be a cause of concern, DGCA may curtail the airline’s summer schedule.

business Updated: Feb 14, 2019 08:59 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The aviation regulator has decided to review the flight schedule of cash-strapped Jet Airways twice in a month to monitor the number of cancellations, two officials familiar with the matter said.
The aviation regulator has decided to review the flight schedule of cash-strapped Jet Airways twice in a month to monitor the number of cancellations, two officials familiar with the matter said. (Reuters File Photo)
         

The aviation regulator has decided to review the flight schedule of cash-strapped Jet Airways twice in a month to monitor the number of cancellations, two officials familiar with the matter said.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is also assessing the situation at IndiGo, which is cancelling almost 30 flights daily but said its operations are likely to return to normal in two or three days.

DGCA has approved the winter schedule of Jet Airways, but with the busy summer season approaching, the regulator wants to keep tabs on how many flights the airline is able to operate.

In case the number of cancellations is found to be a cause of concern, DGCA may curtail the airline’s summer schedule.

“Every fifteen days, we will check how many flights Jet airways had in the schedule and how many they operated. Recently, they had to ground a few aircraft, which affected the flight schedules. The number of aircraft available and number of flights operated will be reviewed and slots in the summer schedule will be given accordingly,” a DGCA official said on condition of anonymity.

In the first week of February, Jet Airways cancelled 15 flights a day following the grounding of six Boeing 737 planes over non-payment of lease rentals.

Laden with debt of about $1.14 billion, Jet Airways cancelled several flights from/to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and Port Blair.

The airline is in talks with its partner Etihad for an additional cash infusion.

The full service carrier would be holding a meeting of shareholders on February 21.

A civil aviation ministry official said a review of the airline’s operations so far had not found the situation to be alarming, but it will continue to monitor the situation.

“The Jet Airways base schedule for winter 2018 has been approved by the DGCA.

Like all airlines, Jet Airways is voluntarily keeping the regulator and airport operators informed of any network/schedule changes and we are in constant dialogue with the DGCA,” a spokesperson for Jet Airways said.

IndiGo, India’s largest domestic carrier with a market share of about 43%, is also adjusting its flight schedule.

A hailstorm in Delhi last week caused the diversion of 11 of its flights, and the airline claims this disrupted its operations; a number of flights were cancelled in subsequent days as the crew had to be readjusted.

Industry figures said the airline may be facing a shortage of trained pilots.

“India doesn’t have enough training facilities for pilots.

The cancellations will affect the growth in aviation sector and it has an impact on both airlines and passengers,” said Mark Martin, chief executive officer (CEO) of Dubai-based Martin consulting. IndiGo informed the DGCA that it cancelled 49 flights on Wednesday, the airline said in a statement

“All these flights were cancelled with one to two days prior notice in order to re-accommodate passengers on flights at a similar time as booked. The cancellations on February 13 were caused by several factors like anticipated weather conditions on February 14 and Notams (Notices to Airmen) at various airports. This resulted in extended duty times which then made it necessary to re-roster our crew and optimize our operations,” the spokesperson said .

Going forward, IndiGo has decided to curtail its schedule for the remaining period of February by approximately 30 flights a day. This is in order to stabilize its operation and adjust its crew rosters due to the reasons mentioned above.

“Passengers are in the process of being informed and re-accommodated. As a proactive measure IndiGo has decided to continue its curtailment until the end of March,” the statement added. These 30 flights represent 2% of IndiGo’s flights.

The operations will be completely normalized by the start of the summer schedule, March 31, 2019, the airline said. An IndiGo spokesperson said the airline was adjusting its flight schedule in the coming days by around 30 flights per day. “This is in order to stabilize the network and operations impacted due to various ongoing Notams (airspace restriction) and predicted bad weather in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.

“ In order to avoid inconvenience, these adjustments are being made in advance, enabling adequate notice to passengers. They are being accommodated close to their original flight schedule. These adjustments amount to 1 to 2% of the originally planned number of flights,” he said.

IndiGo currently operates about 1,300 daily flights. It is expected to shortly start more international and domestic flights.

An industry official said, requesting anonymity, that the short-term fix for the current pilot crisis faced by IndiGo would be to hire foreign pilots, while seeking relaxations from the DGCA to bypass some of the stringent conditions required by overseas pilots to get a Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorisation (FATA) licence.

“The industry as a whole is facing a crisis situation when it comes to pilots, especially commanders. This needs to be addressed as the capacity of the carriers are increasing and there are not enough pilots around,” the person said.

Meanwhile, aviation advisory firm Capa India said on Wednesday that Indian airlines will need to hire about 17,000 additional commercial pilots over the next decade.

The total pilot requirement from FY18 to FY28 is expected to be about 17,000, of which about 9,000 first officers are expected to be upgraded to commander level positions.

India had about 7,963 commercial pilots at the end of FY18.

As one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world, India has seen domestic airlines placing huge aircraft orders. At present, domestic airlines are taking delivery of at least one aircraft a week.

Rhik Kundu contributed to this story.

First Published: Feb 14, 2019 08:05 IST