If you are a Jet Airways frequent flyer, chances are there that you have faced a delayed flight more than once in the last few months. Over the past four months, the airline has been the worst performer on parameters of punctuality in domestic routes with an OTP of 54 percent in November- meaning it barely managed to operate half of its flight on schedule. Rivals SpiceJet and IndiGo registered an OTP of above 80 percent.
So what went wrong and why is Jet struggling to be punctual? A combination of factors, starting from the airline’s push to increase utilisation of fleet and shortage of human resources to infrastructure bottleneck at Mumbai airport (the airlines’ hub) has resulted in serial delays with the airline facing passenger’s ire on social media.
Sources within the airline suggest that a push to increase the utility of aircraft has resulted in a tight schedule and reduced turnaround time between flights. Turnaround time is the time required to service a plane after its arrival at the gate to prepare it for its next flight.
Unlike its peers, Jet Airways fleet has not expanded rapidly over last two years and most of its capacity increase has come through increasing flying hours of Boeing 737- a mainstay of its fleet which is used on both domestic and short-haul international routes. Currently, it has 78 such planes.
The airline has been gradually increasing the utilisation of its Boeing 737s over to make up for lack of new planes. The 737 usage increased from 11:25 hours to 13:20 hours daily which is among the highest in the world, the airline said in a recent investor presentation.
As a result, it was able to increase its domestic capacity by around 30 per cent in the last three years. The airline added around 25 daily flights on short haul and long haul routes in the winter schedule.
"The schedule has become tight and there is little room for flexibility. It does not allow for schedule recovery by swapping in case the operating aircraft is delayed or develops snags. As such a single flight delay has a knock on effect on all flights operated with that aircraft," said an airline source.
The increased work hours has simultaneously been accompanied by a shortage in human resources. Sources suggest that the airline has not been adding new engineers as part of its cost-cutting exercise which is putting pressure on the existing team.
“With less manpower, compulsory transit checks are getting delayed resulting in pressure on the network,” said an engineer working with Jet Airways.
"Take a look at other airline’s OTP at Mumbai and it shows that there is an operational problem,” a senior airline executive said. Mumbai has an OTP of average 64 percent in November- the worst in the country.
The airline management is focused on addressing the issue and daily review meetings are being held to improve punctuality. The airline is also looking to tweak schedules of some of its flights by increasing block times (block time is the time from aircraft pushback from origin to arrival at parking bay at destination) and induct additional Boeing 737 planes - measures it hopes will minimise delays. “The addition of 737 Max from mid next year will change the scenario,” the airline executive said.