IndiGo – the domestic market leader in India has announced a spate of cancellations during the last few days and has now announced that they would cancel about 30 flights per day until end of March.
News reports indicated that the airline has cancelled over 70 flights on the weekend. While the airline remained silent for the next day, social media was abuzz with news of more cancellations and affected fliers taking to Twitter to complain. Only then did the airline acknowledge that the flights were indeed cancelled but blamed it on the storm which hit Delhi on 7th February.
However, when a point came where it was no more possible to blame the storm, the airline informed the press that around 30 flights will be cancelled over the coming days and the schedule would stabilize only by 1st of April, again putting the blame on ongoing NOTAMs and expected bad weather in the coming days. The NOTAM for closure of Bengaluru airport for Aero India is applicable only till 24th of February and the NOTAM at Mumbai is for three days a week and not daily. The cancellation is 1% to 2% of the airlines domestic operations.
Few media reports have speculated this to be a case of shortage of pilots. Ironically, the cancellations page on the airline website shows that there have not been any cancellations and yesterday it was observed that cancelled flights were shown as “Arrived”.
For an airline which has built itself on on-time and hassle-free experience promise, this seems to be a major deviation from its core philosophy. The airline has not listed out the flights which are impacted for the next 45 odd days and passengers could have tough time arranging alternatives in an event where the alternative provided by the airline is not feasible.
Bengaluru and Hyderabad airport websites show the cancellations and one wonders if the red eye flight cancellations is purely pilot shortage or also a mix of pilot shortage and low loads after the increase in air fares. As per Flight Duty Time Limitations (FDTL) for the crew, the rest period is higher if the crew operates a red eye / night flight and thus cancelling such flights help use crew more effectively. However, it is surprising that the airline which had not budgeted for crew effectively when it has grown at breakneck speed in the last one year or more.
While the airline took delivery of 50+ aircraft last year, at an average of over one per week, six weeks into 2019 the airline has taken delivery of just 3 aircraft. With intentions to go international medium haul, crew shortages could delay the airlines plans.