New Delhi: Low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd has fired four senior executives after receiving a notice from the aviation regulator for listing children as infants to accommodate more passengers, a violation of safety norms.
The airline deployed a 189-seat Boeing Co. 737-800 aircraft for the Delhi-Mumbai flight SG-103 on 2 June instead of the scheduled 212-seat B737-900, because of a delay.
After 15 passengers protested for being asked to deplane because of a shortage of seats, SpiceJet officials asked children to sit on the laps of the adults they were travelling with—even though safety norms prescribe that anyone above the age of 2 must be given a separate seat.
Mint reported on 21 June that passengers had complained against the airline. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) then said it would investigate the incident. Late last month, the regulator issued a show-cause notice to SpiceJet after concluding that safety norms had been breached.
“We have issued them a show-cause notice and are awaiting their reply,” said a DGCA official, who did not want to be identified as he is not authorized to speak with the media. The notice, he added, was meant to discourage similar violations by other carriers.
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“We have accepted it,” said a senior SpiceJet official official, referring to the charge; the official asked not to be named owing to the sensitivity of the issue.
The official said four senior executives had been asked to leave, including the head of airports, and head of customer services. “We have also asked all station managers of airports to put passengers on a different flight in such a situation. The matter has been take very seriously.”
The airline has also sent its reply to DGCA’s notice, the official added.
Experts said if the flight had met with an accident or fatality of any kind, insurance firms would have refused to cover it.
“It is naturally a safety violation and that is just the very reason why DGCA has taken note of it,” said retired Air India executive director Jitender Bhargava. “It must take appropriate action which can serve as a lesson for the concerned airline and other airlines.”
DGCA has taken a tough stand on airlines flouting safety norms in the past two years, sending prompt notices and sometimes suspending their licences.
At least three other airlines—Paramount Airways, Jet Airways (India) Ltd’s subsidiary JetLite, and MDLR Airlines Pvt. Ltd—were issued safety notices last year, Mint reported on October 8, 2009.
Paramount Airways and MDLR Airlines do not operate any more.
SpiceJet operates 147 flights daily to 20 cities with a fleet of 22 Boeing 737-800 and 737-900ER aircraft.