Wadia Group-owned Go Air has cancelled over 40 domestic flights this week, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. A Go Air spokesperson blamed the disruptions on the weather conditions in North India (with airports like Delhi and Bangalore having suspended operations due to poor visibility throwing their entire networks into haywire) and protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), among other things. The airline operates over 325 flights per day to domestic and international destinations with a fleet of 57 aircraft.
However according to various sources Go Air has been facing a shortage of crew, and to add on to the situation there has been delays in the delivery of its new aircraft from Airbus. It has faced two engine vibration/stall issues with the A320neo which had forced the aircraft in both incidents to turn back and land at the nearest airports. These incidents prompted Indian aviation regulator DGCA to inspect all Pratt and Whitney (PW) engines, which have been used for more than 3000 hours onboard Go Air A320neo aircraft.
In other negative developments for the airline the DGCA has cracked down on Go Air for making the pilots and cabin crew work in excess of stipulated hours. According to the report Go Air has violated the Flight Duty Time Limitation (FDTL) norms and in some instances made its crew fly for four consecutive nights. It has been reported that the DGCA has found 40 such recent violations. FDTL maintains maximum flying hours as well as the number of landings and take-offs allowed in a day, week or month for a pilot. FDTL aims to make sure that the crew is given proper rest and is not fatigued before the flight and by violating this, the airline might be putting its passenger and the crew at risk. The has been the cause of various incidents across the globe which have proved to be fatal. For example, in the recent Air Crash Investigation report of the Air India Express crash at Mangalore in May 2010, which took the lives of all 158 passengers and crew on board, pilot fatigue was said to have played a major role. Pilot fatigue meant that the pilots were unable to take a decision which eventually led to its crash.
“FDTL violations are serious because they compromise the safety of airline operations These rules are made to ensure that the fatigue of the crew does not compromise safety because a fatigued pilot would not be able to fly as efficiently as a non-fatigued pilot, thus compromising safety. The DGCA should take stringent action against both the airline and pilots or cabin crew members involved,” Shakti Lumba, former pilot and head of operations at two Indian carriers.
Only time will tell us how Go Air will overcome this situation and be back on track. A statement from Go Air says that operations will soon be returning to normal.