Following a complaint by a passenger onboard an Air India A319, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ordered an audit of all Air India A319 aircraft. While the fleet is still in service, the planes will all be checked to ensure the same problem doesn’t exist on others in the fleet.
What is the issue?
The DGCA’s order stems from the complaint of a passenger who was flying Air India between Kolkata and Aizawl on an A319. The complaint states that a broken panel was blocking access to an emergency exit door, meaning it could have been a hindrance in case of an evacuation. Safety protocol is paramount for any plane, and the DGCA has preemptively ordered that all of Air India’s 22 A319s be checked for this defect.
The order could mean that Air India is forced to ground some of its A319s to fix this damaged panel. It is unknown how long the issue, if found, might take to resolve. However, panels are generally quickly replaced.
Air India uses its fleet of 22 A319-100s to service a variety of shorter domestic routes. The airline has a large number of A320 family aircraft and the A319 makes up a large part of 79 narrow-body fleet. The airline has also received three single-configuration A319s to service markets that have a low premium cabin demand.
What does the disruption mean for Air India?
Air India has been preparing for full privatization, with the government investing millions into this goal. This money was to reduce Air India’s heavy debt and finance its large fleet of over 120 aircraft. The planned privatization is set to open for bids in the upcoming months. Air India’s fleet is one of it’s most valuable assets, meaning issues like this could make potential investors jittery about the quality of the fleet.
Air India has been involved in a number of scrapes in the past few years, from maintenance issues to staff issues, but its fleet has remained an asset. If it does come to be known that its planes have defects it might change the perception of an investor. The DGCA’s proactive response means that these issues can be ironed out before bidding opens for the flag carrier.
Safety is the top priority for airlines and regulators alike and the DGCA audit reflects that. The problem does seem minimal but we could see some disruptions in case a number of aircraft have the same issue. The new does not help Air India in its bid to find a new owner in the upcoming months, especially since its fleet is one of its most attractive assets (minus its slots maybe).
The airline has ordered immediate compliance with the audit and we should be able to see the results of the same very soon.
What do you think about Air India A319 audits and its effect on the carrier’s privatization?