In Mumbai: Airlines to meet DGCA over punctuality report

Airlines are known to get into price wars. But domestic carriers in India seem to have got into a squabble over punctuality records. At least two domestic airlines, including budget carrier SpiceJet, are set to meet the aviation safety regulator over the latter’s decision to review the computation of flight punctuality in India.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently set up a panel to review the calculation of on-time performance of airlines days after IndiGo Airlines accused the Mumbai airport of inaccuracy.

The SpiceJet spokesperson did not confirm or deny the move.

“SpiceJet has ensured that it maintains its impeccable operational standards even in harsh weather conditions to continuously emerge as the best on-time performing airline,” read a statement from the budget carrier. The IndiGo spokesperson did not comment but an official from the airline said, “Our stand is simple. If the data is correct what is competition worried about?”

After discounts, on-time performance has become one of the primary yardsticks to woo passengers in India. Some airlines have also used the number game for branding.

Airlines sources said that IndiGo’s grouse had come to light some time after the airline was toppled from the top slot. “As long as IndiGo had the best OTP, the mechanism to calculate on-time performance by the DGCA and airports were perfect. In fact, OTP was their USP and they ran advertisement campaigns like “on time is a wonderful thing” and “IST stood for Indigo Standard Time” citing the data,” said an SpiceJet official who did not wish to be named.

The official added, “Now, for many months when their OTP has been the poorest, they are questioning the DGCA mechanism to calculate OTP itself. As long as you were No. 1 the mechanism was fine, now it is flawed. These are clear double standards.”

Sources added that the DGCA’s move to order a probe could set a wrong precedent.

The data collection system at airports like Mumbai has been in place for many years now.

“Tomorrow, if an airline questions the passenger traffic data, will the DGCA constitute a committee to investigate that too?” questioned another airline official.

This is not the first time that domestic airlines have got into a public squabble. In September, Indigo and Air India got into a fight through hoardings put up at Mumbai airport. An AI hoarding put up near an Indigo check-in counter read, “Wish you a comfortable flight. Next time fly with Air India and feel the difference.”

A day later, IndiGo put up a small standee that read: “Yes, Air India, there is a difference, says the government,” pointing at AI’s poor OTP records.

Last month, a report by a bank’s investment banking arm said that IndiGo’s OTP was likely to remain under pressure in the current fiscal, as it adds more aircraft in the remaining period.

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