Virgin Australia, a prominent airline in the Asia-Pacific region, has recently confirmed that two of its Boeing 737-800 jets have been grounded due to concerns about potentially counterfeit and falsely documented engine components. This alarming development has raised questions about the safety and reliability of aircraft maintenance, highlighting the importance of stringent quality control measures within the aviation industry.
The Involvement of AOG Technics
This aviation saga unfolds with the involvement of a UK-based parts supplier named AOG Technics. This company has come under scrutiny for allegedly supplying counterfeit components that were installed in as many as 68 jet engines across various airlines. The accusations against AOG Technics have sent shockwaves throughout the aviation sector, prompting immediate action and investigations.
Virgin Australia's Response
Virgin Australia became aware of the potential issue after being notified about AOG Technics. The airline has a robust approach to aircraft maintenance to ensure the safety and well-being of its passengers. In response to these concerning revelations, Virgin Australia took swift action to address the situation.
A low-pressure turbine blade on one of its aircraft, registered as VH-VUT, was replaced last week, signaling the first indication of the problem. Over the weekend, it was discovered that an inner high-pressure turbine nozzle on another aircraft, registered as VH-YFR, also needed replacement. These findings raised concerns about the integrity of the engine components and their potential impact on flight safety.
Legal Action Against AOG Technics
On September 7, 2023, a lawsuit was filed in the UK against AOG Technics by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric and Safran SA. CFM International has emphasized that safety is their top priority and that they are taking aggressive legal action against AOG Technics to expedite the identification of parts sold by this third-party supplier with falsified documentation.
The Broader Implications
The Virgin Australia incident underscores the critical importance of maintaining the highest standards of safety and quality within the aviation industry. Aircraft components must meet stringent specifications and be properly documented to ensure the safety of passengers and crew members.
In an era where the aviation sector is experiencing rapid growth, there is an increased demand for aircraft maintenance and parts suppliers. This demand, however, must not compromise the industry's commitment to safety. The case of AOG Technics serves as a stark reminder that vigilance and oversight are essential to prevent counterfeit and substandard components from entering the aviation supply chain.
The grounding of two Boeing 737-800 jets operated by Virgin Australia due to potentially falsely documented engine components has raised significant concerns within the aviation industry. AOG Technics, the UK-based parts supplier accused of providing counterfeit components, is now facing legal action.
This incident highlights the paramount importance of maintaining the highest safety and quality standards in aviation, as well as the need for rigorous oversight of the supply chain to ensure the well-being of passengers and the integrity of the industry as a whole. Airlines worldwide will be closely watching the outcome of this case as they continue to prioritize passenger safety above all else.
With Inputs from The Sydney Morning Herald
Edelweiss, a renowned Swiss airline known for its commitment to passenger comfort and environmental sustainability, is making significant strides in its long-haul fleet expansion. With the acquisition of six Airbus A350-900 aircraft, the airline is poised to revamp its long-haul travel experience and reduce its carbon footprint.
A Greener, More Efficient Fleet
One of the most remarkable aspects of Edelweiss' fleet expansion is the choice of aircraft – the Airbus A350-900. These aircraft are renowned for their fuel efficiency and low emissions, aligning perfectly with Edelweiss' commitment to sustainability. By transitioning to the A350-900, Edelweiss is taking a proactive step towards reducing its environmental impact.
Bernd Bauer, CEO of Edelweiss, stated, "The modernization of the long-haul fleet is a milestone in Edelweiss' almost 30-year history. From 2026, Edelweiss will thus operate one of Europe's youngest long-haul fleets."
The transition to the new A350-900 aircraft will be staggered, with the first aircraft expected to join the Edelweiss fleet in the summer of 2025. Over the course of 2026, the existing five Airbus A340-300 long-haul aircraft will be replaced, effectively restoring Edelweiss' long-haul fleet to pre-pandemic levels.
Enhanced Passenger Experience
Passenger comfort and satisfaction are at the forefront of Edelweiss' strategy. The newly acquired A350-900 aircraft will feature a configuration that caters to the diverse needs of travelers. The cabin will boast 339 seats, with 246 seats in Economy Class, 63 seats in Economy Max (offering more legroom and greater reclining angles), and 30 seats in Business Class that can be converted into flat beds.
In addition to spacious seating, passengers across all classes will enjoy one of the most advanced in-flight entertainment systems. Large, high-resolution screens and USB power outlets at every seat ensure that passengers can stay connected and entertained throughout their journey. Business Class passengers, in particular, will have the privilege of watching movies and series on a generous 19-inch screen.
Challenges and Solutions
Edelweiss acknowledges the current challenges faced by the aviation industry, including worldwide material shortages and reduced maintenance and engineering capacities. To address these challenges, the first four aircraft will initially operate in their original operator, LATAM Airlines, configuration with slight modifications to the cabin and Edelweiss design.
However, Edelweiss is committed to continually improving passenger comfort and plans to install a completely new cabin configuration with new seats and interior design at a later date. This significant investment, amounting to a three-digit million sum, underscores Edelweiss' dedication to providing passengers with a premium travel experience.
Edelweiss' acquisition of six Airbus A350-900 aircraft signals a bold step towards enhancing passenger comfort, reducing emissions, and revitalizing its long-haul fleet. With a commitment to sustainability, state-of-the-art in-flight amenities, and plans for cabin upgrades, Edelweiss aims to once again set new standards in the world of air travel. As the aviation industry continues to recover from the challenges of the past, Edelweiss' fleet renewal plan offers a beacon of hope for travelers seeking luxurious and eco-friendly journeys.
With Inputs from Edelweiss
United Airlines Discovers Dubious Engine Parts, Joins Global Hunt for Bogus Components
In a recent development that has sent shockwaves through the aviation industry, United Airlines has uncovered suspicious engine components in two of its aircraft, adding its name to the growing list of carriers worldwide that have detected counterfeit parts supplied by AOG Technics. This revelation comes as a significant blow to the aviation sector's efforts to ensure the safety and integrity of its fleets.
United Airlines' Discovery
A representative for United Airlines confirmed on September 18, 2023, that these questionable parts were found in a single engine on each of two aircraft, with one of them already undergoing routine maintenance. In response to this alarming discovery, the Chicago-based airline has taken swift action, opting to replace the affected engines before the planes are cleared for flying. The airline's proactive approach reflects its commitment to passenger safety.
Nature of the Suspect Parts
The parts in question are seals on compressor stator vanes, which play a crucial role in directing airflow inside the engine. While United Airlines did not immediately disclose which specific aircraft were impacted, it is important to note that these particular AOG parts are spares primarily used in older-generation engines manufactured by CFM International Inc., specifically the CFM56 engine. This engine type has been utilized in popular aircraft like Airbus SE A320s and Boeing 737s.
AOG Technics' Troubling Role
AOG Technics, a supplier that was once trusted by many airlines, now stands accused of knowingly providing counterfeit engine parts accompanied by falsified documentation. These revelations have led aviation regulators worldwide to scrutinize the authenticity of components sourced from AOG.
AOG's involvement is particularly troubling, as the company has supplied CFM International with a staggering 50 different part numbers for the CFM56 engine alone. The implications of these counterfeit parts in the aviation industry are far-reaching and could potentially compromise passenger safety and aircraft integrity.
Widespread Impact and Industry Response
United Airlines' disclosure about the suspect engine parts from AOG Technics is not an isolated incident. Other major carriers, such as Southwest Airlines and Virgin Australia Airlines, have also confirmed the presence of counterfeit components within their fleets. The aviation industry has been jolted into action, collectively launching a worldwide effort to identify and replace potentially compromised components.
Aviation regulators are working diligently to uncover the full extent of the issue and ensure that all suspect parts are replaced with genuine, airworthy components. This massive undertaking is essential to restoring faith in the safety and reliability of air travel.
The discovery of counterfeit engine components in United Airlines' aircraft is a stark reminder of the challenges facing the aviation industry when it comes to ensuring the authenticity and safety of critical parts. As airlines worldwide join forces to address this issue, passengers can rest assured that their safety remains the top priority. The aviation industry's commitment to transparency, accountability, and rigorous oversight is vital to preserving its reputation for safe and reliable travel.
With Inputs from Fortune
India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently released its monthly aviation data for August, shedding light on the performance of various airlines operating in the country. Among the key highlights, Vistara, a prominent full-service carrier, emerged as a notable winner, experiencing significant growth in its market share and load factor. Meanwhile, newcomer Akasa Air faced challenges due to limited pilot availability, resulting in flight cancellations and delays.
Vistara's Market Share Ascends
Vistara's performance in August positioned it as the second-largest player in India's domestic aviation market. The airline's market share increased to 9.8%, a notable improvement from the 8.4% it held the previous month. While IndiGo maintained its dominant lead with a commanding share of 63.3%, Vistara shared the second position with another Tata Group-owned airline, Air India, which also secured a 9.8% market share. AirAsia India followed closely behind with a 7.1% share, while SpiceJet and Akasa Air accounted for 4.4% and 4.2% of the market, respectively.
Vistara's Impressive Load Factor
In addition to expanding its market share, Vistara achieved the highest load passenger factor (PLF) among all Indian airlines in August, further solidifying its competitive position. Vistara's load factor reached an impressive 91.3, indicating a high occupancy rate on its flights. SpiceJet came in a close second with a PLF of 90.9, showing a continued uptick from the previous month's 88.9.
Akasa Air Faces Pilot Shortage Woes
While Vistara celebrated its success in August, Akasa Air faced operational challenges due to a limited number of available pilots. This shortage led to numerous flight cancellations and delays, affecting the airline's performance and customer satisfaction. Despite these setbacks, Akasa Air managed to secure the third-best load factor among Indian carriers, with a PLF of 87.3.
Load Factors of Other Major Airlines
Among the other major players in India's aviation sector, Air India, IndiGo, and AirAsia India reported load factors of 84.5, 83.6, and 82.4, respectively. These figures reflect the varying degrees of passenger occupancy experienced by these carriers during the month of August.
Vistara's remarkable performance in August, with an increased market share and the highest load factor among Indian airlines, underscores its growing influence in the domestic aviation landscape. While Vistara continues to challenge the dominance of IndiGo, Akasa Air's struggle with pilot shortages serves as a reminder of the operational hurdles that new entrants can face in a highly competitive industry.
As the aviation sector in India continues to evolve, airlines must adapt to changing circumstances, including the availability of pilots and the shifting preferences of passengers. The DGCA's monthly data offers valuable insights into these dynamics, providing a clear picture of how different airlines are faring in the Indian market.
Air India Introduces Integrated Self-Baggage Drop Service at Delhi Airport T3
Tata Group-owned Air India has introduced an integrated self-baggage drop and self-kiosk check-in service at Terminal 3 Delhi Airport for domestic and international flights, becoming the first Indian carrier to do so. The service is currently available for all Australia-bound flights as well as for all flights within India.
Delhi Airport introduced a self-baggage drop facility in June this year, with IndiGo becoming the first airline to use it for its domestic flights. It was decided that the facility would eventually be extended for international flights and to international carriers after successful testing. With the airport experience increasingly becoming time-consuming and more stressful for passengers, this facility eliminates the waiting time for check-in over the counters. Air India plans to offer this for flights to more countries and intends to introduce it at other airports in India and other parts of the world.
With this new feature, Air India passengers can seamlessly complete the digital check-in process, including printing boarding passes and baggage tags, and drop off their luggage independently, eliminating the need to go through traditional check-in counters. Additionally, the kiosks empower travellers to easily customise their trips by selecting preferred seats and updating frequent flyer details, among other options.
Rajesh Dogra, Chief Customer Experience & Ground Handling Officer, Air India, said, “This facility eliminates the queue waiting time for check-in over the counters and helps travellers to nearly breeze through the airport. We not only plan to extend this for flights to more countries around the world but also intend to introduce it at other airports in India as well as at major airports in other parts of the world. Our continued effort remains to simplify processes and elevate customer experience, for our guests to enjoy travelling as much as we love flying them. With the successful implementation of the DigiYatra initiative for domestic flights, the self-baggage drop facility adds to the convenience for travellers, right from helping them to gain hassle-free entry to the airport, to managing the check-in process on their own.”
Air India’s ‘Project Abhinandan’
Earlier this week, Air India announced having rolled out ‘Project Abhinandan’ whereby the carrier has deployed specially trained Service Assurance Officers at 16 major Indian airports to proactively sense passenger concerns and offer on-ground assistance across airport touchpoints.
They will be available at airports in addition to the other Air India and ground handling agencies’ staff. Air India has already recruited and deployed over 100 such officers across airports, as per the statement, and they will assist any Air India guest, regardless of the cabin class one is booked in.
Air India’s Service Assurance Officers at airports will assist any Air India guest, regardless of the cabin class one is booked in, requiring airport assistance at Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Varanasi and Vishakhapatnam.
The development comes as the airline has been taking proactive measures to redefine, rebrand, and reimagine all aspects of its service, from physical appearance and logos to guest experience. This is especially important to Tata Sons as the conglomerate is working to merge Air India with its other full-service carrier Vistara post the acquisition of the former from the government.
Premium Lounge Network Expansion
Air India is working quite hard to elevate the travel experience for its premium customers. Air India has expanded the coverage of lounge access from 16 to 26 airports in the country as part of its ambitious 5-year transformation strategy, Vihaan.AI. The airline has successfully established strategic alliances with airport lounges in important cities including Dibrugarh, Indore, Jammu, Lucknow, Madurai, Mangalore, Nagpur, Patna, Srinagar, and Vadodara.
To expand its premium hospitality, the airline has deliberately partnered with top-notch food courts at 11 airports where dedicated lounges were not available. This step further ensures that Air India’s premium passengers can enjoy top-class services at lounges or food courts at an impressive 37 airports across India.
But Air India‘s commitment to excellence doesn’t end within the borders of India. The airline has gone above and beyond to provide an unparalleled lounge experience to its premium customers at all 41 destinations in its international route network. By collaborating with the finest lounges at multiple international airports, Air India has achieved 100% lounge access coverage for its elite travellers.
The airline’s lounge network has been expanded to include some renowned international lounges. Passengers can now enjoy the Swissport Lounge at Chicago, the SAS Lounge at New York-Newark Liberty, and Japan Airlines’ Sakura Lounge at Tokyo Narita. In addition, Air India has transitioned to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge in Bangkok and the Balaka Executive Lounge at Dhaka airports, further enriching the premium travel experience.
Akasa Air Seeks INR 22 Crore as Compensation From 43 Pilots for Not Serving Notice Period
Akasa Air on September 16 said it has taken legal action against a "small set of pilots" for leaving the airline without serving their notice period. The departure of pilots had led to the cancellation of many flights. The pilot shortage is impacting the services of the airline, sources said. The 13-month-old airline has reportedly sought about INR 22 crore as compensation from the 43 pilots for the loss of revenue and damaging reputation of the airline.
The mass exodus of pilots has forced the airline to cancel its several operations since August 2023. More than 10,000 passengers have been affected due to flight delays and cancellations in July and August forcing the airline to pay more than INR 1 crore as compensation.
"We have sought legal remedy only against a small set of pilots who abandoned their duties and left without serving their mandatory contractual notice period," an Akasa Air spokesperson said in a statement. The airline said the act was not only in violation of their contract but also the country's civil aviation regulations. "Not only is this illegal in law but also an unethical and selfish act that disrupted flights in August forcing last-minute cancellations that stranded thousands of customers causing significant inconvenience to the travelling public," it said.
According to sources, several Akasa Air pilots have joined Air India Express which operates Boeing 737 planes. These unaccounted exits possibly led to a pilot shortage, hitting the airline's overall performance which was otherwise scaling higher and the numbers are reflecting that pain.
Flight Operations Affected
After growing steadily for several months, Akasa Air's market share fell from 5.2% in July to 4.2% in August. Being the top on-time performer (OTP) for three consecutive months with a 90-plus ranking, Akasa Air's OTP took a hit in June falling to 87.6 and deteriorated further in August to 81.4. It appears that the pilot shortage worsened since July after which the airline suffered major delays beyond 2 hours and had to cancel flights mostly due to unavailability of cockpit crew.
Akasa Air, which currently has a fleet of 20 planes, started operations in August 2022. Akasa in August added the 20th aircraft to its fleet making the airline eligible to start international operations. Indian regulations require airlines to have at least 20 aircraft in their fleet to become eligible for international operations. As of August 2023, Akasa operated more than 900 weekly flights across 16 cities in the country.
Akasa Air, which currently has a fleet of 20 planes, started operations in August 2022. This year in June, the Mumbai-headquartered airline increased the salaries of pilots by up to 40%. As per a June report, Akasa Air announced that from July 2023, senior first officers will now start with a monthly salary of INR 3.40 lakh, while senior captains will earn INR 6.25 lakh. Earlier it was INR 2.75 lakh and INR 5.75 lakh, respectively.