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All 737 Max 8 planes in India grounded; SpiceJet to cancel around 35 flights Thursday

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

All Max 8 being operated by Indian have been grounded and around 35 flights of would be cancelled on Thursday consequently, Civil P S Kharola said Wednesday.

He said Thursday will be a "challenging" day as "out of 520 odd flights that flies every day, about 30-35 flights will have to be cancelled".

has been most affected by the grounding of 737 as it has 12 of them in its fleet.

has not been affected as its five 737 have already been grounded - even before the grounding decision of the government -- due to non-payment of dues to lessors.

As the Ethiopian Airlines' 737 crashed near killing all 157 people onboard on Sunday, Indian watchdog of Civil (DGCA) Tuesday night announced that the Max 8 aircraft would be "immediately" grounded.

"Tomorrow is going to be a real challenging day because today the ban has come into effect only from the second half of the day... SpiceJet has assured us that they have taken up multiple plans. They have increased the utilisation of existing aircraft, so that the cancellations get limited," Kharola said.

"As of now, all aircraft of Max have been grounded. The last flight (aircraft) to be grounded was today around 2.30 pm. The deadline was 4 pm and before that all aircraft have been grounded," he said.

On Wednesday morning, the DGCA issued a statement stating no Max 8 aircraft would be allowed to fly in Indian airspace from 4 pm.

"We had a discussion with as to how they would plan to overcome the situation. The have assured that the grounding of 12 aircraft would not significantly impact the passengers and they would draw up a very elaborate plan," the said.

"Today, SpiceJet has just cancelled 14 flights... They have been able to accommodate the passengers affected by cancellation of 14 flights within their own system," he added.

Kharola emphasised that the SpiceJet has been told that cancellations of flights should happen on those sectors that have multiple flights. He added that SpiceJet has assured that if the airport has only its flights, it will not go "unserviced" due to aircraft ban.

He said added that SpiceJet would be setting up special cell to deal with passenger complaints and ensure that the passengers are informed well in time about cancellations or any other adjustments.

He added that the ministry has requested SpiceJet that in case it is not able to adjust or accommodate, other airlines should come forward and they should carry these passengers based on their existing agreements with SpiceJet.

Operators have also agreed not to indulge in "predatory pricing", the said.

DGCA chief B S Bhullar said that lifting the ban on the 737 will be based on inputs from various agencies and it will not happen soon.

He added that other airlines - apart from SpiceJet - have been requested to keep fares at a reasonable level and the DGCA will monitor fare levels regularly.

In a statement Wednesday evening, SpiceJet said,"SpiceJet is rationalizing & optimizing the use of its Boeing 737 NG and Q400 aircraft to address the current situation and minimize inconvenience to its passengers."

"We are evaluating options for augmenting capacity in the coming days through a mix of additional flights & aircraft inductions. We are sure that our operations will be normal very soon," it said.

The said that a majority of passengers affected as a result of these cancellations have been accommodated on alternate flights.

The said it is offering passengers the option of "a full refund, changing the flight/date of travel, or even change of destination (to nearest alternate airport); all this without any cancellation charges or any fare difference".

While and most countries across the world have decided to ban the use of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, the US has refused to do it as yet.

(FAA), which regulates aviation industry in the US, said in a tweet Wednesday that it "continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of 737 MAX".

"Thus far, our review shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft. Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action," it said, adding it will take immediate and appropriate action if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 13 2019. 20:10 IST
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