SpiceJet flight held up amid surprise DGCA check
The incident is the latest in a series that has put the airline in a spotlight over air safety concerns and has earned it a warning notice from the regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week.
A SpiceJet flight from Mumbai to Srinagar was delayed for six hours on Saturday after a surprise inspection by the country’s aviation watchdog found some problems, forcing the airline to arrange for a different jet for the service.
The incident is the latest in a series that has put the airline in a spotlight over air safety concerns and has earned it a warning notice from the regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last week. The outer windshield pane of another SpiceJet aircraft cracked minutes after its departure from Chennai on Sunday. The aircraft, a Boeing 737Max, departed from Chennai at around 2.20pm and landed Shirdi at around 3.40pm.
Talking about the Mumbai-Srinagar flight, a Mumbai airport official told HT: “The DGCA found that the airline was operating the flight without having 25 life jackets on board.” “However, since the boarding process hadn’t begun at the time, passengers were made to wait in the terminal building until an alternative aircraft, VT SXB, was arranged,” the official added.
A SpiceJet spokesperson gave a different explanation for the delay, denying that the inspection was a surprise check. “As the aircraft scheduled to operate from Mumbai to Srinagar was being checked by a joint DGCA and SpiceJet team and an alternate aircraft was available, it was decided to shift passengers on that plane,” the spokesperson said adding that the first aircraft was subsequently cleared by the DGCA and operated the morning’s Mumbai-Goa service.
“There has been no surprise audit by DGCA in the last few days. If and when there is a DGCA inspection, the airline has been informed in advance. The Mumbai-Srinagar flight was not grounded on July 9 by DGCA,” this person said. The standard time of departure of the flight SG 950 from Mumbai is 7.05am, however, on Saturday, it departed at around 1.10pm.
A Mumbai airport official further explained the process: “DGCA officials conducting surprise visits and checks is part of their routine visits. The DGCA randomly selects a flight and checks it in order to ensure passenger safety. Yesterday, SG 950 was checked and 25 life jackets were missing. Having life jackets on board is a mandate by the regulator and hence no flight can take off without having even one”.
Since May 1, there have been at least nine air safety incidents, including cases of malfunctioning equipment and cracked windscreens. The controversies prompted the DGCA to issue a show-cause notice on why action should not be taken against it.Informal consumer surveys and anecdotal evidence from tour operators have suggested the spotlight has hit confidence of customers, in what could present a larger challenge to a company that has lost close to 40% of its share value over the last six months.