Crisis-hit airline Go First has extended the suspension of its flight operations until May 26 due to operational reasons. The budget carrier, which initially halted flying on May 3, may resume operations from May 27.
There have been indications of pilot calls from Go First’s rostering department inquiring about availability for operations on May 27. However, the airline’s business plan, yet to be submitted by the IRP, and the departure of several pilots make it uncertain if operations can resume by May 27.
Sources have said that the pilots of GoFirst based out of Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Delhi have been getting calls from its rostering department asking whether they are “available” to operate on May 27. businessline spoke with at least three such pilots.
The company did not respond to this paper’s query. A company source said that the IRP hasn’t submitted the business plan yet. They also said that since many pilots have decided to jump ship, the airline is also taking stock of the pilots. Hence, businessline couldn’t confirm whether the airline would be able to resume operations even from May 27.
Meanwhile, an internal email was reviewed by businessline with the subject ‘online ground refresher training towards the resumption of operation’.
The email sent to pilots stated: “Kindly be informed - Operations are likely to commence from 27th of May 2023. Since there has been a gap in flying operations - it has been decided to conduct an Online Ground refresher Training. The topics that will be covered are the Important Aspects of Performance, Technical and Adverse Weather Operations.” The pilots are supposed to have a training session with the Chief Ground Instructor.
In an update on its website, the Wadia-owned airline said that due to operational reasons, “flights until 26th May 2023 are cancelled”. “A full refund will be issued to the original mode of payment shortly… as you are aware, the company has filed an application for immediate resolution and revival of operations. We will be able to resume bookings shortly,” it added.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) instructed Go First to stop ticket bookings until further notice. On May 10, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) accepted the airline’s voluntary insolvency plea and appointed an Interim Resolution Professional (IRP) to oversee its affairs.
Go First’s application to NCLT revealed the cancellation of 4,118 flights in the last 30 days, affecting 77,500 passengers. The DGCA issued a show cause notice to the airline for failing to operate services safely and efficiently. Go First’s response will determine the fate of its Air Operators Certificate (AOC). As a result, the DGCA directed Go First to cease ticket bookings and sales immediately. The airline owes creditors around ₹11,463 crore.
Earlier reports had suggested a potential resumption of operations on May 24, but BusinessLine reported that the airline was not able to restart by then. The airline now faces the likelihood of multiple legal battles, including cases from lessors and vendors, limited cash availability, and frozen consortium accounts. Go First stated that flight cancellations until May 23 were due to operational reasons and expressed regret for the inconvenience caused.
While efforts are underway to restart operations as soon as possible, the airline requires sustainable operations and resolution of lessor matters for clarity. The IRP has been tasked with running the company as a going concern. Go First’s lessor, SMBC, filed an appeal petition at NCLAT claiming the airline owes ₹700-800 crore. The bench did not provide interim relief and scheduled the matter for a hearing on May 15.
Of Go First’s total fleet of 54 aircraft, 27 were grounded for engine issues. SMBC, GY Aviation, and SFV Aviation, which collectively own 21 aircraft, have appealed to the NCLT. DGCA has received deregistration requests for 45 aircraft, but the moratorium imposed by NCLT prevents their deregistration. Additional lessors are expected to file appeals, with some considering writ petitions. The matter is likely to escalate to the Supreme Court.
In summary, Go First has extended the suspension of flight operations until May 26 due to operational reasons. The airline, undergoing insolvency resolution, faces legal battles, grounded aircraft, and financial challenges. The DGCA has directed Go First to halt ticket bookings, while the NCLT proceedings continue. The fate of the airline’s AOC and its ability to resume operations remain uncertain.