GoAir’s fleet operations down to 75-77% amid management churn

NEW DELHI: Struggling to find a stable management team for a long time, Wadia Group’s GoAir is operating only 75% to 77% of the 47 Airbus A320 aircraft in its fleet. The low cost carrier’s latest CEO resigned this February, after barely eight months into the job. There has been a significant management churning at the top in past few months and the airline, which started flying in 2005, remains the smallest among its contemporaries like IndiGo and SpiceJet.

“The airline is currently flying 35 to 36 aircraft. Network still remains a weak area for the airline,” said a person in the know. Other Indian carriers like IndiGo, SpiceJet, AirAsia India and Vistara are trying to increase flights by getting unutilised slots of Jet Airways at Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore airports.

A GoAir spokesperson said: “The airline business has to factor lean and peak seasons from multiple perspectives, including sales, marketing and maintenance of aircraft. Efficient and smart airlines across the world undertake ‘scheduled’ maintenance and repair work of aircraft during lean season so as to take full advantage of the peak season.

“At GoAir, we follow this business principle of undertaking ‘scheduled’ maintenance and engineering checks of the aircraft so that GoAir has maximum capacity to cater to in the ensuing peak season. These checks are done purely from sales-demand perspective. Thus, maintenance and engineering checks are essentially part of our business strategy and network planning. The scheduled maintenance and engineering checks will not affect GoAir’s existing flight schedule in any manner,” the airline spokesperson added.

GoAir’s latest CEO Cornelis Vrieswijk, who quit this February, had taken over after Wolfgang Prock-Schauer, an ace aviation veteran with rich experience at both Indian and foreign carriers, quit GoAir in December 2017 after disagreement with the promoter Wadia Group to join rival IndiGo as COO. Airline MD Jeh Wadia is performing the CEO’s role till a replacement is found.

GoAir has ordered 144 Airbus A320 Neos. A senior government official said the airline’s plan was to return the older version of A320s and instead use the fuel-efficient A320 neos as they join the fleet.

Speaking on the issue of grounded fleet, the airline said its “strategy is to stay competitive as well as profitable. Neo technology provides 15–20% better fuel efficiency as compared to the Ceo technology. It is in this context that we have decided to have all A320 Neo fleet and eventually phase out our A320 Ceo fleet. Our plan is to sub-lease most of our A320 Ceo fleet and therefore these aircraft have to undergo ‘re-delivery engineering’ checks.”

GoAir, which had last October started international flights, currently has 1,600 weekly flights across a network of 24 domestic and four international destinations — Phuket, Male, Muscat and Abu Dhabi. It has been recording the highest domestic on-time performance for last five months among domestic airlines.