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Delay-and-milk Spice told to refund fliers

- DGCA cracks whip after Mumbai ordeal

New Delhi, July 28: SpiceJet has been asked to refund fares to all passengers on a Mumbai-Delhi flight that was delayed for over four-and-a-half hours last month in the first such blanket order issued by the aviation regulator.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also ordered SpiceJet to refund the money charged for food and beverage instead of offering them free on delayed flights as the rules prescribe.

The airline, controlled by Kalanithi Maran, is the second biggest low-cost private carrier and the third largest across all categories in the country. Maran is the grandnephew of DMK chief M. Karunanidhi but confines himself to business operations.

The Boeing 737-800 aircraft, carrying 172 passengers who included two infants, reported a snag, following which the pilots aborted the take-off and returned to the bay. Another aircraft was pressed into service after a delay of over four-and-a-half hours.

Acting on a complaint by a passenger, DGCA conducted an investigation and found that the flight was delayed because of technical problems. A warning flashed on the cockpit flight panel, indicating that there would be no air-conditioning after take-off, which led to the take-off being aborted.

The DGCA probe found that during the entire stretch of the delay, SpiceJet sold food and beverages in the aircraft in violation of rules. Section 3 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) says airlines should provide food to passengers affected by cancellation or delay of 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. We will be responding shortly to the DGCA.”

Officials said the cabin crew as well as an airport manager informed the DGCA in their statements that they were “not aware” of the CAR provisions. The DGCA has now directed the airline to provide adequate training to the cabin crew and airport ground-handling staff to make them aware of the CAR provisions.

The DGCA announced the decision on a day SpiceJet, on the back of its numerous discounted airfare schemes, said it had clocked a market share of 19 per cent in June. The figure makes SpiceJet the third largest airline by market share in the domestic sector, elbowing Air India out of its spot.

Air India reported a drop in market share to 18.5 per cent in June from 18.6 per cent in May.

IndiGo remained the leader, having flown 31.6 per cent of domestic passengers last month, although its share registered a marginal decline from May when it had clocked 31.7 per cent.

Jet Airways and JetLite together remained the second-largest carrier with a 19.6 per cent share. However, its market share declined from 21 per cent in May 2014.

AirAsia, the newest entrant in Indian skies, clocked a market share of 0.2 per cent.


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