India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered SpiceJet (SG, Delhi International) to cut its scheduled flights by 50% for the next eight weeks due to concerns over safety and said it would place the airline under “enhanced surveillance”. However, the airline has insisted there “will be absolutely no impact on our flight operations.”

The move on July 27 follows a show-cause notice it served on the carrier earlier in the month for “degraded safety margins” during 2022, giving it three weeks to defend itself against regulatory actions.

“The number of departures of SpiceJet are hereby restricted to 50% of the number of departures approved under Summer Schedule 2022 for a period of eight weeks from the date of issue of this order,” the DGCA’s interim order declared. “Further decision in this matter shall be taken thereafter.”

Any increase beyond 50% will require SpiceJet to show it has enough technical support and financial resources to safely upgrade its capacity.

SpiceJet responded in a BSE stock exchange filing that it would “operate a normal flight schedule with no passenger inconvenience.” Acknowledging the DGCA’s interim order, it said: “There has been no impact on our schedule [because], like other airlines, the company had already rescheduled its flight operations due to the current lean travel season.”

It concluded that it “once again reassures its passengers and travel partners that our flights will operate as per schedule in the coming days and weeks. SpiceJet is confident of scaling up its operations with the onset of the festive season and addressing any concern the regulator may have on priority.”

An aviation sector insider told The Hindu newspaper that the order was mere “eyewash” as SpiceJet was already flying far fewer flights than the number the authority had approved. On July 26, for example, it operated 204 departures out of the average 598 daily departures approved by the DGCA. According to the ch-aviation capacities module, the carrier has 1,248 frequencies scheduled for the week starting August 1.