In a first-of-its-kind action, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has directed SpiceJet to refund fares to all passengers of a Mumbai-Delhi flight that was delayed by about five hours last month, officials said on Monday.
The aviation regulator also asked the no-frills airline to refund the money it charged from passengers of this delayed flight by selling food and beverages, instead of offering it free in accordance with the laid-down rules.
The Boeing 737-800 aircraft (VT-SGO), carrying 172 passengers including two infants, suffered engineering problems which led the pilots to abort the take-off and return to the bay.
Another plane was pressed into service, replacing the 189-seater aircraft, to operate Flight SG-419 on June 16 after a delay of over four-and-a-half hours.
Acting on a complaint by a passenger, the regulator conducted an investigation and found that the flight was delayed due to “technical problems twice on account of ‘leading edge flap transit light’ and rejected take-off due to ‘take-off configuration’ warning”, the officials said.
The warning flashed on the cockpit flight panel indicated that there would be no air conditioning through the entire flight after take-off. This led to the flight being aborted and the aircraft changed.
The DGCA probe found that during the entire delay at Mumbai, SpiceJet sold food and beverages in the aircraft in violation of rules – Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) Section 3, which detail the facilities airlines should provide to passengers affected by the cancellation of or delay in flights for more than two hours.
Responding to the DGCA action, an airline spokesperson said, “SpiceJet, like most airlines, serves food on the ground during the delay in cases like this, and we will be responding shortly to the DGCA.”
He, however, did not comment on the flight delay.
The officials said the cabin crew as well as an airport manager informed the regulator in their statements that they were “not aware” of the provisions of the applicable CAR.
Following this finding, the DGCA directed the airline to provide adequate training to the cabin crew and airport ground handling staff to make them aware of the provisions of CAR and follow them when such situations arose.
During the investigation, the aviation regulator also found “serious engineering issues with aircraft in the fleet of SpiceJet” and ordered a special engineering audit by a DGCA team within a fortnight, the officials said.