Last Thursday on 23rd January 2020 while checking in on Indigo flight 6E5388, the executive at the window said very hospitably to me:
“Ma’m as a one time favour I am giving you the window seat in the 13th Row, I am giving you seat number 13F!” I joked with him asking ‘why one time? I travel Indigo all the time you should do this favour more often.’
I also asked ” don’t you have a frequent flyer program?” Which I have now realized was a no brainer. Why?
Simply because every day, at every Indian airport, big or small, almost 50% persons flying are taking some Indigo flight . They would have to dole out FF privileges to every other Indian…and a low fare airline cannot afford that I suppose.
It came as a surprise to even a generally knowledgeable person like me that Indigo flies 1500 flights everyday to 86 destinations – 62 domestic and 24 international.
It is the largest individual Asian low cost carrier – it ferried 64 million passengers in 2018 -2019. One can go on giving impressive facts about this company; that it was floated only in 2005 and by 2012 had become the largest (in the country). It still tracks a phenomenal growth record, from 806 flights daily three years ago it has progressed to 1500. It definitely can be called our ‘National carrier’ like Indian Airlines was once.
But at what cost, this growth??
The first casualty of the growth has been the claim the Airlines used to make “of always on time Indigo.” As every passenger must have experienced at some time or the other, they can make you wait hours beyond the scheduled time always giving the excuse of “bad weather and delays at some earlier destination.” But what is suspect is some delays are habitual, like the mid morning flight from Bengaluru to Nagpur. It is like the scheduled time has changed but they forgot to mention it!
The second casualty is Service. From that infamous way an elderly passenger was tackled to the ground by an airline employee, to the experience of being locked up in a bus ferrying you from terminus to plane; to NEVER receiving refreshments / lunch/ dinner when the flight is inordinately delayed, these things are passé now.
Punctuality and Service may be overlooked, but what about Safety?
After my own harrowing experience from having flight number 6E 5388 turned back after 45 minutes and making a panic run to Mumbai amidst much turbulence, loss of altitude and smoke bellowing from the vents, I made some research into how many such incidents have happened in the recent past.
To my astonishment , exactly the same had happened to the Mumbai – Hyderabad flight just 12 hours earlier.
A Mumbai – Coimbatore flight turned back after one of its engines stopped working mid air.
A Mumbai – Bengaluru flight turned back due to high vibrations mid air.
A Pune -Jaipur flight had to make an emergency landing at Mumbai due to unspecified problems.
A Kolkatta bound Airbus returned to Bagdogra immediately after take off.
All these examples are of January 2020 or thereabouts only.
As an employee quipped flippantly ” many more such instances may have happened but they get reported only when a journalist or some Social- network active person is on board!”
What is causing these “technical problems?”
It is reported that in a huge consignment of Airbus 320 Neo planes acquired by Indigo had defective engines from Pratt and Whitney. When resulting glitches began coming to light DGCA asked Indigo to have all these engines replaced. But for some reason this deadline keeps getting extended.
31st January was the last deadline given for the 135 planes with unmodified PW engines.
This deadline has now been extended to May 31st by DGCA. This is after the Manufacturers ( of the engine) has advised all airlines around the world to ground planes that have these PW 4500 defective engines.
But this is India! We do things in our own sweet time. And meanwhile if a horrible tragedy occurs we will blame it on destiny!