After all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft were grounded by India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways cancelled 20 flights affecting 300 passengers on Wednesday. The number is likely to go up with SpiceJet set to cancel around 35 flights today, Civil Aviation secretary PS Kharola said. Ministry of Civil Aviation has asked SpiceJet and Jet Airways to accommodate all the passengers without "charging extra cost".
SpiceJet and Jet Airways are the only two Indian airlines to have the 737 MAX 8 in their fleet. SpiceJet has 13 such aircraft while Jet Airways has five, which had already been grounded soon after an Ethiopian airline crash claimed the lives of 157 people including four Indians.
"Tomorrow is going to be a real challenging day because today the ban has come into effect only from the second half of the day... SpiceJet has assured us that they have taken up multiple plans. They have increased the utilisation of existing aircraft, so that the cancellations get limited," PS Kharola said on Wednesday.
India's aviation watchdog DGCA announced its decision to ground the aircraft on Tuesday night. DGCA chief BS Bhullar said that lifting the ban on the 737 MAX 8 aircraft will be based on inputs from various agencies and it will not happen soon.
The Civil Aviation Ministry has asked SpiceJet and Jet Airways to come up with full plan on how to accommodate passengers and deployed aircraft on the scheduled route. Apart from directing them to maintain schedule, other airlines have been asked to accommodate passengers who are being offloaded by SpiceJet.
Operators have also agreed not to indulge in "predatory pricing", the secretary said.
However, spot airfares for Wednesday and Thursday saw a steep rise on important routes across the country, according to data provided by Yatra.com.
SpiceJet in a statement said, "While a majority of passengers affected as a result of these cancellations have been accommodated by SpiceJet on alternate flights, rests have been offered a full refund."
Many countries and the whole of Europe grounded the 737 MAX after the second fatal accident of the aircraft in just five months. In October, a Lion Air plane crashed into the sea off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta 13 minutes after take-off, killing all 189 onboard.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates aviation industry in the US, said in a tweet Wednesday that it "continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX".