FOLLOWING a global trend of grounding Boeing 737-MAX aircraft, India finally suspended the plane’s operations and over-flight permissions on Wednesday evening, even as hundreds of passengers were affected at airports. Further, the Government tried to protect passengers from the double whammy of high fares and reduced flight operations. Advising airlines not to go in for predatory pricing, it said that it will be monitoring key sectors to detect any high fares. Briefing the media here, after a meeting between Ministry of Civil Aviation officials with airlines’ representatives, Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said that all flights operated on Boeing 737-MAX have been grounded before 4 pm. In India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways operate 17 Boeing 737-MAX aircraft — Spice (12) and Jet (5) — though the latter’s fleet was already grounded due to various reasons.
“We have advised the airlines that they should not use it (grounding) as a reason to jack up their fares,” Kharola told reporters. “They have assured that they will go as per normal routine. The DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) has just said that it will be monitoring all the sectors very closely and after monitoring, if it is found that pricing is predatory, advisory will be issued.” Kharola said that SpiceJet cancelled 14 flights, out of the 500 plus flights it operates on a daily basis. The airline was able to take care of passengers on its cancelled flights. However, according to sector experts, airfares are already high and the current developments may further push them up.
“The shortage of planes and high seat occupancies are expected to push airfares north in the short term. The fares were at least 15 per cent higher this year compared to last year. Owing to the current situation, they are expected to rise further this season,” Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C) of Yatra.com said. According to Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder, ixigo: “Following the ban of Boeing 737 MAX in Indian airspace, international inbound flights have been affected. Post the DGCA announcement, 34 international flights flying into Mumbai and 12 flights bound for Delhi were cancelled.”