Friday, July 10, 2020

Fleet Path: Why GoAir grounded its A320ceos

In early June, IndiGo, India’s largest carrier by fleet and domestic market share, announced the retirement of its older A320ceo at a faster pace and instead continue to induct the A320neo (neo engine option) - which are fuel-efficient.

The announcement — coming at a time of lower fuel prices, minimal cash flow, and grounded aircraft — was surprising. But IndiGo had sound logic. It wanted to save the heavy engineering costs since most older aircraft in its fleet would soon reach the critical ‘second engine shop visit’.

‘Second engine shop visit’ refers a thorough check on engines and replacement of engine blades — a costly proposition. The country has four airlines which operate the A320neo — IndiGo, GoAir, Air India and Vistara.

While Vistara and Air India have opted for the CFM-powered aircraft, IndiGo and GoAir operate the Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo and the engines have created issues from the word go.
The induction was delayed on engine complaints, and there were many subsequent failures. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) stepped in and directed airlines to have a timeline to replace the older engines with the upgraded ones.

The engine issue also meant that the ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards) approval was not granted to IndiGo and GoAir for the A320neos, restricting them from using the aircraft type with optimal routing, and, at times, flying a little longer to be within the designated alternate airfields.
Amid this, GoAir, the Mumbai-based airline that re-started operations a week after government permitted airlines to fly, moved to an all-NEO fleet, keeping its entire A320ceo fleet grounded. The airline has 14 A320ceos and could have well become the first one to switch over to a fleet of A320neo planes, but for COVID-19.

GoAir has long been conservative to a fault. It was the first one to start grounding a large portion of its fleet, leading up to the government- enforced grounding and has been cautious in operating flights even after  the ban was lifted.

In mid-June, it was operating 12 aircraft  (just 21 percent) of its fleet on a given day. The airline has a fleet of 54 aircraft, comprising 14 A320ceos and 40 A320neos. The airline has 101 A320neos on order with a few ready to be delivered.
10/07/20 Ameya Joshi/
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