Sunday, February 05, 2017

Watchdog barks at IndiGo, airline loses security center license

When you replace computers with pen and paper, one of your wings gets clipped. Ask budget carrier IndiGo.

Aviation security watchdog Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has suspended the license of the airline's aviation security training for alleged lapses in the examination system.

BCAS started growing suspicious about IndiGo after its cabin crew started scoring high marks – 90 percent or more – consistently. A subsequent inspection brought to light what could be called a scam.

To start with, it was found that IndiGo employees illegally circulated question papers to their cabin crew. BCAS also found that the airline has been using the same question papers for eight months and replaced the computer-based exam system with pen and paper.

"This is complete breach of trust. It (the exam) was farcical," BCAS chief Kumar Rajesh Chandra said. The BCAS action means that the IndiGo centre, run by parent InterGlobe Aviation, will not be able to function from Monday.

This is likely to hit the airline's finances as it would now have to outsource the security training programme. Besides, the BCAS move comes at a time when the airline's market share is already on a decline – from 42.1 percent November 2016 to 40.3 percent in December last year. This, despite carrying more passengers (38.48 lakh) in December 2016.

The aviation security regulator has now issued a show-cause notice to the center. "On Friday, we suspended the licence for fudging or leaking question papers for cabin crew," Chandra said. The centre, being a BCAS-accredited one, is supposed to keep the watchdog in the loop about changes in exam format.

"What they did was without informing us, from April-May 2016 onwards, they changed from computer-based system to pen-and-paper examination," he said.

BCAS found that in as many as eight batches, all candidates got over 95 percent marks, Chandra said. Each batch in the six-day training programme has around 35-40 people.

Security centres train cabin crew on dealing effectively with emergency situations like hijacks and fire breaks. "If security training is compromised, it raises serious questions," said an official in the civil aviation ministry.

IndiGo, however, said that all its other training programmes are continuing and its flight operations will continue. An airline spokesperson said that it is in discussion with BCAS and will comply with regulatory requirements.

Chandra, however, made it clear that the training centre's licence would be restored only after it rectifies all anomalies. He even warned that the centre's licence could be suspended indefinitely.

All scheduled airlines have to compulsorily impart aviation security training to its security staff, cockpit and cabin crew – either through their own centres or BCAS-approved facilities or through other authorised centres. The BCAS conducts such programmes for airlines and other stakeholders in all its regional offices.

While cockpit and cabin crew are imparted a one-week training in various aspects of airline and airport security, those deployed in other jobs are trained for more than a week.


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