The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Wednesday ordered SpiceJet to operate 50% of its flights for eight weeks after several of its planes reported technical malfunction, ANI reported. During this period, the budget carrier will be subjected to “enhanced surveillance” by the aviation regulator.

“In view of findings of various spot checks, inspections and the reply to the show cause notice submitted by SpiceJet, for continued sustenance of safe and reliable air transport service, the number of departures of SpiceJet are restricted to 50% of the number of departures approved under Summer Schedule 2022 for a period of eight weeks from the date of issue of this order, in accordance with powers conferred under rule 19A of the Aircraft Rules, 1937,” the Director General of Civil Aviation said in an interim order.

Any increase in number of departures beyond 50% would require the airline to show it has sufficient technical support and financial resources to safely upgrade its capacity, the order added.

On July 5, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had issued a showcause notice to SpiceJet after the airline reported eight instances of technical malfunction in a span of 18 days. The aviation regulator had sought the company’s explanation on the “degradation of its safety margins”.

In one instance on July 5, a Delhi to Dubai SpiceJet flight had to make an emergency landing in Karachi after its fuel indicator malfunctioned. On July 2, a Delhi-Jabalpur SpiceJet flight returned to the national capital after crew members saw smoke in the cabin at a height of 5,000 feet.

On Wednesday, the aviation regulator said it took cognisance of the snags that SpiceJet reported between April 1 and July 5.

“On a number of occasions, the aircraft either turned back to its originating station or continued landing to the destination with degraded safety margins,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said in its order. “There is poor internal safety oversight and inadequate maintenance actions, which have resulted in degradation of the safety margins.”

The aviation regulator also carried out a financial assessment of the airline in September and found that SpiceJet was operating on “cash and carry” and “approved vendors are not being paid on a regular basis”. This, it said, was leading to a shortage of spare parts and frequent invoking of the minimum equipment list, which means there is bare minimum working equipment on board.

The interim order pointed out that SpiceJet is taking measures for “arresting the trend of incidents”, ANI reported. “However, the airline needs to sustain these efforts for safe and reliable air transport service,” it added.

SpiceJet said it will comply with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s directives. The company sought to reassure its passengers and travel partners saying it will operate flights according to schedules and there will be no cancellation as a consequence of this order.

“Due to the current lean travel season, SpiceJet like other airlines had already rescheduled its flight operations,” the company added. “Hence, there will be absolutely no impact on our flight operations.”

On March 11, the aviation regulator approved 4,192 weekly domestic flights of SpiceJet for this year’s summer schedule that ends on October 29, according to PTI. With Wednesday’s order, the budget carrier will be able to operate not more than 2,096 weekly flights for the next eight weeks.