Fliers start to shun SpiceJet after run of safety lapses

NEW DELHI: Passengers are starting to avoid SpiceJet Ltd. after a series of mid-air safety failures, according to a survey, dealing a blow to the cash-strapped airline that’s been summoned by authorities to explain the lapses.
A survey of more than 21,000 fliers conducted by LocalCircles showed 44% are currently steering clear of India’s third-biggest airline due to safety concerns versus 21% who are avoiding Air India Ltd. and IndiGo and 18% for Go First. Some 37% of respondents said they don’t avoid any particular airline.
Losing passengers over incidents involving technical glitches would be a major setback for SpiceJet, which has relinquished its second-highest market share to Go First. Any fallout could further upset SpiceJet’s deteriorating financial health. The airline has suffered losses for the last three fiscal years and its shares have plunged 43% this year, making it the worst airline stock in Asia.
In a rare occurence, the aviation regulator on Wednesday said SpiceJet failed to build “safe, efficient and reliable” services in the wake of recent issues. It’s given the airline three weeks to explain why action shouldn’t be taken against it.
A SpiceJet flight operating a Boeing Co. 737 Max plane was diverted to Karachi due to an indicator light malfunction on Tuesday. Later that day a Q400 jet was forced to make a priority landing in Mumbai after its windshield cracked. Another SpiceJet aircraft from New Delhi on July 2 returned to the capital due to smoke in the cabin.
The incidents, though non-fatal, have invoked strong criticism against SpiceJet, with some people urging authorities to investigate the airline’s safety practices. Others are blaming the 737 Max aircraft and calling on airlines to stop operating the jets. Waning confidence in the 737 Max could be more bad news for SpiceJet because it’s looking to induct at least seven of them this year, people with knowledge of the matter said last month.
According to the LocalCircles survey, 46% of people believe the worsening balance sheets of Indian airlines in turn leads to inadequate maintenance of fleets, and that’s the top reason behind degrading safety standards. About 18% of passengers said ineffective oversight by the regulator is also a cause.