The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered budget carrier SpiceJet to restrict its flights to 50% of the number of departures approved by the aviation regulator for eight weeks amid repeated technical glitches.

Commenting on the order, SpiceJet, which operates a fleet of 99 aircraft, says there will be absolutely no impact of the regulator's order on its flight operations.

The aviation watchdog in its interim order says the airline failed to establish a safe, efficient, and reliable air transport service under the aircraft rules.

Any increase in the number of departures beyond 50% of the number of departures approved under Summer Schedule 2022 shall be subject to the airline demonstrating to the satisfaction of DGCA that it has sufficient technical support and financial resource to safely and efficiently undertake such enhanced capacity, says the regulator.

This comes weeks after the DGCA issued a show-cause notice to the low-cost carrier, saying that on numerous occasions SpiceJet aircraft either turned back to its originating station or continued landing to the destination with degraded safety margins.

"There is poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions, which have resulted in degradation of the safety margins," the regulator says.

Financial assessment carried out by the DGCA in September 2021 had also revealed the airline's suppliers and vendors are not being paid on a regular basis leading to shortage of spares.

The Ajay Singh-led airline submitted its reply to DGCA's notice on July 25.

The same has been reviewed at appropriate level and it has been observed that SpiceJet is taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents, however, the airline needs to sustain these efforts for safe and reliable air transport, the aviation regulator says.

During these eight weeks, the airline shall be subjected to "enhanced surveillance", says the DGCA, adding that further decision in the matter shall be taken thereafter.

SpiceJet, however, says its flights will operate as per schedule in the coming days and weeks. "We are in receipt of the DGCA order and will act as per directions of the regulator. Due to the current lean travel season, SpiceJet like other airlines had already rescheduled its flight operations," the budget carrier says.

"There will be no flight cancellation as a consequence of this order," it adds.

"DGCA's observation that SpiceJet is taking measures for arresting the trend of incidents is very encouraging and we will continue to work under the close guidance of the regulator," says the airline.

Shares of SpiceJet tanked 7% in the opening trade on Thursday to ₹35.60 on the National Stock Exchange (NSE).

The airline's fleet includes Boeing 737 Max, Q‐400s and freighters. It is also the country’s largest regional player operating 63 daily flights under UDAN or the Regional Connectivity Scheme.

In May, DGCA had imposed a ₹10-lakh fine on SpiceJet for training pilots on a faulty simulator. It also barred 90 pilots of the airline from flying Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

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