India’s Airlines Are Being Audited – Here’s Why

India’s aviation watchdog, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is conducting an audit on all Indian airlines. The audit is to ensure all safety protocols are being followed even as airlines cut back costs and lay off staff. Airlines are being audited based on their financial strength, with Air India and SpiceJet the first two airlines to be audited.

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The recent Air India Express crash In Calicut has brought attention back to airline safety in India. Dhruvarahjs via Wikimedia Commons

Safety back in the spotlight

Following a tragic crash of Air India Express 1344 earlier this month, safety has become a priority in the industry. Airports are currently under review to prevent a similar crash, especially on tabletop runways. Now, the DGCA is also putting airlines to the test with an audit of all Indian carriers.

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The DGCA will conduct the Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) in phases to cover all airlines. The FOQA involves collecting flight data and checking for safety and efficiency of flights to make recommendations to carriers.

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The recent Air India Express crash has put airports and airlines up for review. Photo: Getty Images

The current downturn in aviation has seen airlines put much of their staff on leave-without-pay programs due to financial difficulties. The lack of cash could also result in airlines not meeting essential maintenance and servicing requirements. With staff missing and revenue running low, the DGCA is concerned that safety could be at risk.

Air India and SpiceJet up first

The first phase of the FOQA will begin with flag carrier Air India and budget airline SpiceJet. The recent crash and precarious financials have put Air India’s (and subsidiaries’) safety record in the spotlight. Air India is also heading for privatisation soon, with bids wrapping up this month, which means a bad report could hamper the sale process.

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Air India and SpiceJet will be audited in the first phase. Photo: Getty Images

SpiceJet has also seen a number of safety incidents in the last few years, leading to growing concerns from the DGCA, according to a report in ET Prime. With the airline now expanding into long-haul operations, a review will be important to ensure that safety standards are being maintained. The airline is also struggling financially, losing $108m in Q1 and putting much of its staff on leave-without-pay.

While the DGCA has not set out fixed criteria, it is largely auditing airlines by their financial standing. This makes it likely that GoAir and AirAsia India will be up for audit in the next phase. IndiGo and Vistara will likely be the last to face the audit, thanks to their strong balance sheet and financial backing, respectively.

DGCA to report findings

Following the audit, the DGCA will likely publish its findings and highlight actions to be taken by airlines. While in the past airlines have shrugged off or delayed implementing some orders, the DGCA will be sure to crack down on any violations. There is no timeline on when the audits will wrap up.

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The Indian market will continue growing in the coming years. Photo: Getty Images

This renewed focus on safety will also help continue India’s aviation expansion in the future. Hundreds of millions of more passengers could fly in India, making it one of the last major markets to expect exponential growth.