Shortage Of New Boeing 737 Pilots And Planes Leads SpiceJet To Trim Summer Schedule

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Summary

  • SpiceJet has reduced its summer schedule as it struggles to hire more pilots and add more planes.
  • The airline is being cautious about non-utilization of airport slots and scrutiny from the aviation regulator.
  • Still, SpiceJet has managed to finalize the lease agreements for new aircraft and is working on stabilizing finances.

Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet is being mindful while planning its summer schedule as it faces a tricky market to hunt for new planes and Boeing 737 pilots. The airline has been trying to stabilize its finances and operations after a few difficult years but is still significantly behind its peak capacity before COVID-19.

Tricky situation

SpiceJet’s weekly schedule for this year’s summer season includes 1,657 approved flights. This is down from 2,240 flights it had planned for the previous winter season and 2,132 flights for the 2023 summer season.

A senior executive from the airline told Moneycontrol that SpiceJet could not operate all flights it had planned for the winter schedule and wanted to avoid non-utilization of airport slots this time around. The airline is doing its best to prevent any more scrutiny from India’s aviation regulator, the DGCA.

SpiceJet's Boeing 737 MAX 8 approaching the runway at Mumbai Airport.

Photo: BoeingMan777 | Shutterstock

But one of the main reasons SpiceJet cannot increase flight capacity is the change in flight duty time limitations for pilots and the non-availability of trained Boeing 737 pilots in the market currently. Moneycontrol quotes the executive as saying,

“SpiceJet has a fleet of 33 operational aircraft, including eight wet-leased planes and around 400 pilots on its payrolls at the moment. Once the new FDTL (Flight Duty Time Limitations) norms kick in from June, an additional 60 to 90 pilots will be needed to operate the same number of flights, as per the winter schedule.”

Another executive aware of the matter added that the market has become highly competitive for 737 pilots lately, especially with carriers like Akasa Air and Air India Express (both operate 737 planes) also attracting the talent pool.

With the collapse of Go First and all the trouble its aircraft lessors have faced in the last year, India’s rating in the leasing market has also been affected. As such, SpiceJet is also finding it challenging to acquire new planes for good deals.

SpiceJet Boeing 737 MAX
Photo: BoeingMan777 | Shutterstock

Finalizing lease agreement for 10 aircraft

The airline, however, will still boost fleet capacity in the coming months and has finalized lease agreements for 10 aircraft. It has already received three airframes as part of recent settlement agreements with key aircraft lessors.

On March 7, SpiceJet announced the successful resolution of a $49.8 million dispute with Echelon Ireland Madison One Ltd. This helped save $48 million for the airline and the acquisition of two airframes. It also resolved an $11.2 million dispute with aircraft leasing firm Cross Ocean Partners, resulting in the transfer of an airframe and an engine to the airline.

Spicejet 737

Photo: Media_works | Shutterstock

Furthermore, SpiceJet has also finalized a wet lease agreement for two Airbus A340 aircraft for the upcoming Hajj operations. The airline plays a key role in Hajj operations every year and will deploy two widebodies from Srinagar and Guwahati in 2024.

Recent developments

SpiceJet is trying to stabilize its finances and settle disputes with lenders and lessors for smooth future operations. Recently, Credit Suisse, with which SpiceJet had a long-standing financial dispute, said that the airline has cleared all its outstanding dues and is no longer in default.

SpiceJet Boeing 737

Photo: Hafit Irawan | Shutterstock

The airline has also been raising funds from investors and has been reducing its workforce to maintain the investors’ interest. It was reported last month that around 1,400 SpiceJet employees would lose their jobs.

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