Troubled SpiceJet asked to limit advance booking to a month, clear salary dues in 10 days

New Delhi: Concerned over the deteriorating condition of SpiceJet and large-scale flight cancellations, aviation regulator DGCA today withdrew 186 of its slots and asked it to clear salary dues of all its employees in the next ten days.

After reviewing the situation facing the no-frill carrier, DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar took a series of decisions, including asking the airline to file a "convincing schedule" by December 15 to clear its over Rs 1,500 crore dues to various vendors including airports and oil companies, official sources said.

The DGCA also directed the airline not to take bookings of flights over one month and refund the booking amount to the customers of cancelled flights in 30 days, they said. 

SpiceJet flight

As many as 93 arrival and 93 departure slots were withdrawn by DGCA as the low-cost carrier was operating 232 flights in October, instead of 339 in September, the sources said.

The regulator would now on also carry out "heightened" surveillance of all SpiceJet flights on landing to ensure that safety is not compromised due to its financial troubles, they said.

The measures came a day after Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said troubled SpiceJet was seeming to "give us heart attacks".

"We are running through a lot of turbulent weather...not only the public sector, private sector is also crashing. (With) Kingfisher crashing and, right now, SpiceJet seems to be giving us heart attacks as far as airlines are concerned," Raju had said.

Asking the airline to clear salary dues of all its staffers by December 15, the regulator directed it to disburse the salaries now on by the 7th of every month. 

With over 125 pilots quitting the airline in the recent past, the aviation regulator asked SpiceJet to ensure that the Flight Duty Time Limitation (FDTL), a rule which governs maximum duty time for the cockpit crew, was not violated even if the airline was facing a pilots' crunch.

The DGCA has asked the airline to report compliance of its first steps by Monday, the sources said.

Asked what the next steps could be, they said this would depend on the levels of compliance to the directives issued by the DGCA.

The airline officials were not immediately available for comments on the DGCA directives to the airline.

With reports of slashing of its Boeing fleet by about a third and operate 24 out of its current strength of 35 planes by the middle of next year, its officials said the decision to shrink was part of the airline's restructuring process and cutting costs.

The airline has reported fifth straight quarter of net losses for the July-September period, at Rs 310 crore, although it is down from the year-ago period when it had a net loss of Rs 559 crore.

The airline auditors, in their recent report, have cast doubts over the ability of media baron Kalanithi Maran's budget carrier to run as a "going concern". 

Earlier in the day, airline chief operating officer Sanjiv Kapoor denied reports that Airports Authority of India had put the SpiceJet on cash-and-carry mode. 

"Clarifying once more, as news media continue to report wrongly: SpiceJet is categorically NOT on cash and carry with the AAI. @flyspicejet," Kapoor tweeted on the micro-blogging site.

The reports had said that the AAI had decided to withdraw the credit facility to SpiceJet and asked it to pay in advance before flying from any of its airports.

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