IndiGo defends itself, says passenger safety paramount

Low-cost carrier IndiGo Monday tried to defend itself against the civil aviation watchdog's charge that it had flouted mandatory safety norms, and said passenger safety has always been paramount for the airline.

"IndiGo is a very quality conscious airline and passenger safety is paramount to our company's mission and values," the Gurgaon-based airline said in a statement.

IndiGo was responding to the financial audit report of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that had rapped the budget carrier for not reporting 35 incidents of violations of flight duty time limitation (FDTL) for pilots and cabin crews, and many instances of snags.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had said there would be no compromise on air safety and the airlines would have to comply to the norms set by the DGCA.

IndiGo said the FDTL violation incidents occurred due to reasons such as weather, traffic congestion and flight diversions.

"These 35 FDTL issues occurred over 74,500 flights operated by IndiGo from January to October 2011. We would like to reiterate that these FDTLs occur due to unavoidable circumstances such as weather, traffic congestion and flight diversions."

The watchdog's report criticised IndiGo for instructing its pilots not to report small incidents and snags and that the airline faced a severe shortage of training examiners for pilots.

The examiners review the performance and technical knowledge of serving as well as trainee pilots.

IndiGo said it had hired more pilots and training examiners than the normal hiring ratios.

"We have consciously over-hired pilots, especially highly trained and experienced pilots and training captains, far more than the normal hiring ratios."

On other allegations that the DGCA reviewed the fleet induction plans of IndiGo because of its rapid expansion plan, the airline said: "IndiGo is in line with the 'strategic plan of the ministry of civil aviation (MOCA) for 2010-15', which recognizes the need for growth."

"The government policy fully supports the need for additional capacity in the air transport segment to meet the growing needs of the travelling public."

The airline plans to expand its fleet to 55 aircraft from a fleet of 48 aircraft in December 2011.

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