The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN), has refuted claims made by domestic airline SpiceJet regarding an audit, in which it said the airline’s operations, safety processes, and systems were found to be in order. ICAO said its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) team visited India between November 9 and November 16, under ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM), but the visits to operators were not audits or inspections. 

William Raillant-Clark, communications officer at ICAO, tweeted: “ICAO’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) team performed an ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) to India from 9 to 16 November 2022. The objective of an ICVM is to validate progress in addressing the findings from previous USOAP activities.”

“As part of an ICVM, ICAO teams conduct industry visits to verify the effectiveness of the civil aviation authority’s safety oversight. This will include visits to multiple operators. ICAO wishes to clarify that visits to operators are not audits or inspections at all,” he added. Though the UN-affiliated organisation did not directly name the airline, SpiceJet was the only airline to have issued a statement following ICAO’s visit. 

ICAO statement comes a week after SpiceJet said that, in an audit on November 14, the UN agency established the airline’s credentials as a safe airline. “SpiceJet operations, safety processes and systems have been found to be in order following an exhaustive audit conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The comprehensive audit by ICAO firmly establishes SpiceJet's credentials as a safe airline,” the airline said on December 5. 

The cash-strapped airline said: “It was the only scheduled domestic airline part of the audit conducted by ICAO under USOAP continuous monitoring approach. The audit of SpiceJet safety systems helped India achieve its highest-ever safety ranking in ICAO audit." 

These claims were further confirmed by airline chairman and managing director Ajay Singh, who said the ICAO audit is the “benchmark of safety.”

SpiceJet has been under the DGCA’s radar over the past several months, owing to multiple technical snags in the operations of flights. The aviation regulator capped the operations capacity of the airline to 50% in July for two weeks and later extended the curbs till October 29. The cap was lifted in October last week and the airline was allowed to operate at full capacity for the winter schedule, between October 30, 2022, and March 25, 2023. 

The DGCA also asked the airline to send engine oil samples to Pratt & Whitney Canada for PW51A oil analysis to ascertain the presence of metal and carbon particles after a SpiceJet flight made an emergency landing in Hyderabad on October 12, due to the presence of smoke inside the aircraft cabin. 

SpiceJet has witnessed severe financial distress over the past year, with losses widening to ₹837.8 crore for the quarter that ended September 30, 2022, against ₹561.7 crore in the corresponding quarter last year. SpiceJet, whose rank has slipped from 2nd to 5th in terms of market share, has attributed its losses to record high fuel prices and a depreciating rupee against the US dollar. Its revenue in July to September quarter this year stood at ₹2,104.7 crore against ₹1,538.7 crore in the same quarter of the previous year. On Wednesday, SpiceJet was trading 1.09% lower at ₹41. 

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