Monday, September 24, 2018

A civil aviation safety audit is a good move

There is a perception that domestic airlines are soaring in India. Data bear out the dizzying heights that have been scaled. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation says that over the last decade, air passenger traffic has grown by around 16 per cent annually. The majority of the 140 million passengers who were flown by Indian airliners last year travelled in the domestic sector. But perception can belie reality. There is credible information to suggest that air travel — for carriers and passengers alike — is not quite free from turbulence. High operational costs, the rising price of aviation turbine fuel, poor maintenance facilities and other challenges have eaten into the slice of profits for domestic airlines.

Passengers, too, complain about the surge in ticket prices, especially during the festive season. The misgivings are largely economic from both the providers of the service and those who purchase it.

But there is a deeper problem, one that is often ignored as a result of the cacophony over prices, be they of fuel or tickets. The exponential growth in air travel in the domestic sector has not been accompanied by a commensurate improvement in standards of quality and safety. Several passengers were taken ill on account of the loss of cabin pressure in a Jet Airways flight recently. The shocking incident has been — this is significant — attributed to an error committed by the cockpit crew. Some of the victims of the oversight have also complained bitterly about the alleged apathy of the flight attendants. Air travel is not without air pockets anywhere. Reports of airlines averting collisions, or landing on wrong runways, are common in this part of the world too. All this raises serious questions about the quality of training imparted to those responsible for ensuring passenger safety. The prompt decision by the Union civil aviation minister to order a safety audit of all airlines, airport facilities and, interestingly, flying schools is welcome.
24/09/18 Telegraph

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