Your bags are checked in, the security check went well and you’re seated comfortably on that aisle seat with extra leg room. But how safe is that aircraft that you’re in? Even though there haven’t been many flight accidents reported in India, the recent data from the Ministry of Civil Aviation say 192 airline safety issues have occurred in the country in the last 10 years. Of them, a majority of events have occurred in flights operated by IndiGo and Air India.
Between 2013 and July 25, 2022, airlines in India have reported 19 accidents, 99 serious incidents and 74 incidents. An airline accident is one where a person is fatally or seriously injured or an aircraft sustains damage or sees structural failure or it is either missing or inaccessible. A serious incident, on the other hand, is something that could have been an accident and an incident is a situation that affects the flight’s safety.
The numbers were revealed by Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of Civil Aviation, while answering a question raised by nine Lok Sabha MPs. The question was in the light of an increasing number of incidents in the recent past. Earlier this week, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had asked SpiceJet to cut down its operations by 50 per cent for eight weeks due to poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions.
Who caused the most issues?
In the last 10 years, six Air India aircraft have been involved in accidents. This is followed by five Spice Jet and four Jet Airways flights. Data say that 2022 saw one accident in a SpiceJet flight which had occurred on May 1.
However, when it comes to serious incidents, IndiGo tops the list, having reported 35 of these since 2013. IndiGo’s aircraft have reported a total of 52 issues in ten years. When it comes to Air India, the number is 49.
While answering a separate question on Thursday, Scindia said, “A total of 478 technical snags were reported in last one year (Between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022).
‘Don’t go by numbers’
A closer look at the data shows that these occurrences peaked in 2019 which saw 35 issues reported across airlines. While the number has been almost half (17 each) in 2020 and 2021, owing to multiple lockdowns and a less frequency of air travel, four airline accidents occurred in 2021. And in 2022, until July 25, 10 incidents have been reported, including an accident.
However, experts from the industry caution that the real number could be even higher. "The DGCA has been covering up the number of accidents and terming them as incidents, so that the data on accidents is kept low," says aviation safety consultant Mohan Ranganathan, "If we show accidents, then the insurance premium goes up and the country's reputation is also affected," he adds.
Some also believe that there is scope for better reforms in the field. “If you’re constantly penalising someone and finding reasons to make their lives hell, they will find excuses to lie to you and hush things up. There has to be some level of audits, but this has to be for the betterment of the industry,” says Mark Martin, Founder and CEO, Martin Consulting.