GoAir was forced to cancel around two dozen domestic flights on Monday 23rd December as the aviation regulator stepped up pressure on the budget airline to address safety risks arising from overworking its crew, two people with direct knowledge of the developments said. Regulators globally, including India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), have repeatedly flagged the perils of exhausted pilots falling asleep in the cockpit. The issue has become widespread as cash-strapped airlines try to squeeze maximum productivity out of their crew.
“GoAir was overstretching its staff, which can potentially cause accidents," one of the two people cited above said, requesting anonymity. “What if a crew becomes so sleepy due to overwork that they are unable to perform evacuation in case of emergencies?"
The latest cancellations come amid heightening safety concerns, primarily due to a series of snags on Pratt and Whitney (P&W)-powered Airbus A320neo planes, which make up the bulk of GoAir’s fleet. IndiGo, the largest domestic airline, earlier faced similar issues. In February, IndiGo cancelled more than 50 flights due to staff shortage.
On 22 December, a GoAir A320neo jet headed to Chandigarh from Mumbai had to abandon its journey mid-air because of engine vibrations, stoking fresh worries about the P&W engines. Checks carried out by DGCA earlier in December showed that GoAir had been violating its crew work time for several days, the second person said, adding that the airline was about 30 pilots short.