SpiceJet boss Ajay Singh in an exclusive interview with NDTV gave a detailed account of the tense situation they faced when a SpiceJet flight landed in Pakistan's Karachi due to a malfunctioning fuel indicator light.
The Delhi-Dubai flight was diverted to Karachi as a precautionary measure, Mr Singh said. The pilot suspected there could be additional consumption of fuel, more consumption than there should be. In abundant precaution, he (the pilot) absolutely did the right thing, he diverted the plane to the nearest airport, Mr Singh said.
All analysis found there are absolutely nothing wrong with the aircraft, he said, adding that once at Karachi, the SpiceJet passengers were allowed to rest at a terminal.
Pakistan is not an easy country to deal with in such a situation, he said. "We wanted to send an aircraft there (Karachi), take the passengers out on to Dubai," Mr Singh said.
The Pakistan government took a lot of time in giving clearances. "It took a fair while, we really did regret that. But they did allow us to take the passengers out of the plane and into the lounge," Mr Singh said.
The replacement aircraft was sent, but it took a long time because clearances in Pakistan take a lot of time especially when it comes to Indian aircraft, he said.
"Mumbai is very close to Karachi, if it (SpiceJet flight) had landed in Mumbai it would have been alright," he said.
"Of course you have to use your best officers to get clearances in Pakistan...It was very tense. We were concerned," Mr Singh said. "Well, we had kept the government, the regulator as well as our Ambassador in Pakistan informed and of course, everybody assisted in the process," he added.
An unusually high number of incidents involving SpiceJet aircraft has prompted the aviation regulator to seek an explanation from the airline. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, or DGCA, has pointed out big gaps on how the airline is functioning, from operating flights with "degraded safety margins", issues that point at "poor internal safety oversight" to vendors not being paid on time, leading to shortage of spare parts for the SpiceJet fleet.
SpiceJet in a statement said it will respond to the notice within the specified time period. "We are committed to ensuring a safe operation for our passengers and crew. We are an IATA-IOSA certified airline," the airline said, referring to the International Air Transport Association and the IATA Operational Safety Audit.