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SpiceJet leases two aircraft to tide over Boeing 737 Max crisis

The domestic aviation industry has been hit by a shortage of jets following a ban on the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the type of aircraft that crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday killing 157 people.

india Updated: Mar 15, 2019 09:36 IST
Faizan Haider
Faizan Haider
Hindustan Times
SpiceJet,Boeing 737 Max
SpiceJet leased two aircraft from a Turkish airline that will help ease a shortage of jets from Saturday,(Mint)

SpiceJet leased two aircraft from a Turkish airline that will help ease a shortage of jets from Saturday, the Indian airline said on Thursday, even as fares continued to rise and travel agents reported an uptick in the number of people making advance booking.

The domestic aviation industry has been hit by a shortage of jets following a ban on the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the type of aircraft that crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday killing 157 people. The incident, second of its kind in five months, has triggered widespread concerns over the jet’s airworthiness, prompting a worldwide ban on its operation.

“We are in touch with Spicejet and they have said that they are optimising the existing fleet of 64 planes and they are operating more flights than they used to... Also, they have withdrawn unpopular sector such as Ahmedabad - Muscat and using the aircraft for multiple domestic flights,” said a civil aviation ministry official, asking not to be named.

SpiceJet grounded 13 of its B737 MAX jets on Wednesday, taking the total number of parked planes by Indian airlines to at least 50. This has resulted in cancellations of around 150 flights a day, according to airline industry experts.

Booking website Yatra.com, which has analysed fares between metro cities, found an average fare increase of 63% in comparison with last year – the highest being 271% between Bangalore and Mumbai.

“Given the current constraints due grounding of aircraft, planned travel / commercial schedules are certainly being impacted, leading to a load shift thereby creating a spike in price across routes. We are already witnessing a paradigm shift in advance bookings. While earlier data reflected individuals booking 7 days prior to departure, we are now witnessing a widening of the booking window to between 10- 15 days prior departure,” said Indiver Rastogi, president, Global Business Travel, Thomas Cook (India) Limited.

Late on Wednesday, Boeing put out a statement saying it has temporarily suspended operations of the entire fleet of 371 737 MAX 8 aircraft. It said its action followed “consultation with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US National Transportation Safety Board, and aviation authorities and its customers around the world”.

The move came after several countries, including India and much of the European Union, ordered the jets to be grounded in the days since Sunday when Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 slammed into a field roughly 6 minutes after take-off.

The incident was eerily similar to the October 29 crash of Lion Air flight JT610, which plunged into the sea 12 minutes after taking off. Investigators are yet to declare a link, but officials and experts see the coincidence as worrying.

First Published: Mar 15, 2019 09:30 IST