Troubled SpiceJet to see daily-flight cancellations: report

The troubled low-cost carrier SpiceJet is likely to go for daily-flight cancellations to save costs, according to a report.

The airline is suffering from delayed salary payments, aircraft on the ground and some being repossessed by lessors. The airline has been talking to potential investors for funds infusion but no deal has come through.

Till an investor arrives, however, SpiceJet's fleet shrinkage and daily cancellations may only increase, says a Firstpost report.

Sources close to developments at SpiceJet said they expected the daily-flight cancellations to reduce in December compared to November as some aircraft were to return to the airline. But this has not happened and in fact, some more aircraft have been grounded.

Against about 40 daily-flight cancellations that the airline had admitted to in mid-November, the number has risen to almost 70 a day. At its peak, the airline was operating 345 daily flights this summer but now that number is down to 275, according to sources. These sources also pointed out that the cancellations are likely to stay through December as the airline may not increase its operational fleet in a hurry.

Some of the aircraft have been repossessed by lessors because SpiceJet was unable to pay lease rentals, some others were re-deliveries. More aircraft could be in line for re-possession by lessors unless the airline is able to pay lease rentals.

These sources also said SpiceJet is planning to shut down operations to Indore, Varanasi, Aurangabad, Surat, Mysore, Trivandrum, Sharjah, Kathmandu and Kabul. With shortage of aircraft and probably daily working capital requirements, a truncated schedule will mean lower daily costs.

These sources said the airline is now left with a fleet of only 20 Boeing aircraft and of these, only 18 are operational. As per data available on the DGCA website, till August this year SpiceJet had a fleet of 33 Boeing 737-800 aircraft and 6 Boeing 737-900ER besides 15 Q400s. So from its August peak, SpiceJet's Boeing fleet is down from 39 to 20 and only 18 aircraft are flying.

An airline spokesperson disputed these numbers, saying 24 Boeing aircraft are operational now and the airline has total 31 Boeings in its fleet. He did not respond to queries on salary delays for November or whether operations to the many stations mentioned above are being suspended. He merely said the airline is still operating 300 daily flights and cancelling 50 every day.

The airline spokesperson did not respond to queries on how many passengers have been refunded till now for flights which are being cancelled daily or how much has the airline spent on refunds.

An airline industry veteran said SpiceJet has been resorting to parts' stripping - where spares from grounded aircraft are used to fly operational aircraft.