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SpiceJet India’s most-delayed airline in May, says DGCA report; Air India slips too

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Passengers of SpiceJet Ltd. in India are facing extensive flight disruptions, making it the airline with the highest number of delays in the rapidly growing aviation market. In May, only 61% of SpiceJet’s flights departed on time from India’s major airports, a drop from nearly 70% in April. Air India Ltd., the second-largest carrier, also experienced a decline in punctuality.

These frequent delays highlight the challenges of India’s fiercely competitive aviation market during the post-pandemic boom. The surge in travel during the May and June school holidays strained the capacity of airlines, and the suspension of ticket sales by Go Airlines India Ltd. added pressure to the flight networks.

In May, domestic passenger traffic rose by 15% to 13.2 million, but airlines tussled with workforce and aircraft shortages after their grounding during the pandemic. The situation was worsened by a global issue with Pratt & Whitney engines, resulting in the grounding of numerous planes serving the Indian market.

According to Harsh Vardhan, Chairman of Starair Consulting, airlines are under immense pressure to expand services but are still facilitating their operations to meet the sudden increase in traffic.

Unfavorable weather conditions further compound flight disruptions, with social media, flooded with complaints from frustrated passengers. For example, 350 Air India passengers were stranded in Jaipur after a pilot exceeded maximum work hours while waiting for weather clearance in New Delhi. SpiceJet experienced a 10-hour delay on a Pune to Dubai flight, and an AirAsia India delay caused a school teacher in Bengaluru to miss a funeral.

SpiceJet faces financial challenges alongside declining punctuality, having incurred losses of $40 billion over four years. The airline delayed releasing its latest fiscal year results and grounded over two dozen aircraft, leading to a market share drop from 7.3% to 5.4% since the start of the year.

Despite the difficulties, flight delays in India remain relatively lower compared to other major aviation markets. FlightAware data shows that only 15% of departures were delayed in India, compared to 30% in the UK and 20% in the US from January to June 20.

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