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Friday, 15 March, 2019, 15 : 15 PM [IST]

SpiceJet leases two aircraft to tide over Boeing 737 Max crisis

SpiceJet leased two aircraft from a Turkish airline that will help ease a shortage of jets, the Indian Airline said on March 14 , even as fares continued to rise and travel agents reported an uptick in the number of people making advance booking.

The domestic aviation industry has been hit by a shortage of jets following a ban on the Boeing 737 MAX 8, the type of aircraft that crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday killing 157 people. The incident, second of its kind in five months, has triggered widespread concerns over the jet’s airworthiness, prompting a worldwide ban on its operation.

“We are in touch with Spicejet and they have said that they are optimising the existing fleet of 64 planes and they are operating more flights than they used to... Also, they have withdrawn unpopular sector such as Ahmedabad - Muscat and using the aircraft for multiple domestic flights,” said a civil aviation ministry official.

SpiceJet grounded 13 of its B737 MAX jets on March 13, taking the total number of parked planes by Indian airlines to at least 50. This has resulted in cancellations of around 150 flights a day, according to airline industry experts.

Booking website, which has analysed fares between metro cities, found an average fare increase of 63% in comparison with last year – the highest being 271% between Bangalore and Mumbai.

“Given the current constraints due grounding of aircraft, planned travel / commercial schedules are certainly being impacted, leading to a load shift thereby creating a spike in price across routes. We are already witnessing a paradigm shift in advance bookings. While earlier data reflected individuals booking 7 days prior to departure, we are now witnessing a widening of the booking window to between 10- 15 days prior departure,” said Indiver Rastogi, president, Global Business Travel, Thomas Cook (India) Limited.

Late on March 11, Boeing put out a statement saying it has temporarily suspended operations of the entire fleet of 371 737 MAX 8 aircraft. It said its action followed “consultation with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US National Transportation Safety Board, and aviation authorities and its customers around the world."

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