The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will be dispatching teams to check each aircraft thoroughly with common complaints being broken hand rests, meal tables, window panes and torn seats.
Carriers in India with weak finances and/or an ageing fleet will now have their aircraft cabins and the aircraft thoroughly checked when parked at night across major airports in India, reports say.
Aircraft with issues that could potentially affect the safety of the traveller will be grounded and allowed to fly again only after the problems are addressed, a senior regulatory official told TOI.
Following tweets of shabby interiors, DGCA recently grounded a SpiceJet Boeing 737 in Bengaluru and an Air India Airbus A320 in Kolkata.
Last month, authorities ordered a SpiceJet Boeing 737 airplane to be grounded following a passenger’s tweet, which contained not-so-impressive pictures of the plane. The images showed scruffy cabin interiors and questionable conditions of some panels that appeared broken or missing.
A few days later, another passenger on an Air India flight took pictures of the Airbus A320’s shabby interiors, including a broken armrest, and posted them on social media. The DGCA asked the airline to check and rectify the problem as soon as possible.
“Now we will do this regularly at night time when the planes are parked. If anything that could affect safety is detected, the planes will be grounded till the airline rectifies the deficiencies,” said a senior official.
The formal exercise has begun with low-cost SpiceJet. The budget carrier’s promoter Ajay Singh met top DGCA officials including DGCA Arun Kumar and his deputy & head of safety Maneesh Chopra.
“(Exhaustive checks) are in progress. We have covered about half the fleet (of SpiceJet’s 70 aircraft). Deficiencies are being identified and addressed. Will not let an aircraft with any safety issue fly without it being properly attended. We expect things to improve shortly.”Arun Kumar, DGCA Chief
After SpiceJet’s 70 aircraft are checked on a priority basis, the DGCA teams will turn their focus on other Airlines. First to come under the scanner are airlines with weak finances and/or old aircraft.
In the past, DGCA used to conduct financial audits when a particular airline/s used to be under severe financial stress. Kingfisher, for instance, underwent this exercise in 2010.
None of the Indian carriers had strong balance sheets before 2019-end, with the sole exception of IndiGo which had healthy cash reserves. Covid’s devastating effect on air travel further weakened all airlines, including taking IndiGo — the only sustainably profitable airline till the start of 2020 — into deep losses.
“Today every airline has weak finances. Only a few airlines are part of cash-rich groups (like the Tatas now having several airlines in its fold). Conducting a financial audit will reveal what is already known. The better option under these special pandemic circumstances is to bring all aircraft under the scanner, each one of each airline by prioritising checks of those belonging to airlines that are financially weak airlines and/or have ageing aircraft,” a person in the know told TOI.
(With Inputs from The Times of India)