Budget airline GoAir has grounded 14 aircraft amid continuing worries over the Airbus A320neo engines. While the airline has officially said the fleet drawdown is part of its routine maintenance schedule, media reports suggest the airline's continuing issues with the A320neo engines could have influenced its decision. In a related development, GoAir has sought to change the delivery schedule of the 144 A320neo on order while looking to rework the order book by including larger aircraft for long haul flights, the reports say.
Aviation circles believe that grounding 14 of the carrier's 49 aircraft will increase the chances of flight cancellation. The airline was expected to induct more aircraft on its fleet so to maintain a fleet strength of 54 for smooth operations as it looks to expand to more international routes, according to a Financial Express report. The airline currently flies to 24 domestic and four international destinations.
GoAir operates about 200 flights daily and its remaining 35 aircraft may be pushed hard to maintain operational performance, industry sources say. In comparison, competitor Spice Jet maintains a fleet level of 75 aircraft for operating about 516 daily flights to 59 destinations, according to the report.
GoAir maintains that the grounding of the aircraft is for routine maintenance. "We follow the business principle of undertaking 'scheduled' maintenance and engineering checks of the aircraft in the months of January, February and March so that GoAir has the maximum capacity to cater to in the ensuing peak season," the newspaper quoted an airline spokesperson as saying.
The grounding of any more aircraft on technical or financial issues could lead to further flight disruption for GoAir at a time when the performance level of domestic aviation has nosedived from a rise in flight cancellations. Jet Airways has been at the forefront of flight cancellations, hit by financial and governance issues. The airline's fleet size has shrunken from 103 to 83 aircraft as leasing companies have compulsorily grounded some the aircraft over unpaid dues.
The airline has been in talks with lenders and foreign partner Etihad Airways for a debt resolution plan that its board has approved. However, a delay in getting the necessary board approvals from the lenders and Etihad is stalling the management's efforts for infusion of more operational funds. The situation is worsening by the day as the airline's operational efficiency is plummeting as lessors ground more and more aircraft leading to the cancellation of more schedules.
About 100 flights of Jet are reportedly getting cancelled every day, throwing the country's civil aviation sector into chaos. There are reports another 20 Jet aircraft could get grounded if the expected cash infusion does not take place soon enough.
The flight cancellations are driving up domestic flight fares as passengers of cancelled flight are booked on other flights. However, the recent decision of Air India and Air Vistara to cancel agreements with Jet Airways for honouring flight interruption manifests (FIM) is putting Jet passengers in trouble. The fares of last-minute bookings soar sky-high.
Two Delhi-based ticketing agents told the New Indian Express that passengers have started taking note of the high cancellation rate of Jet and are avoiding booking tickets on the airline. "Passengers have started losing trust and we are also avoiding bulk corporate bookings with Jet Airways," one of the agents said, according to the newspaper.