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GoFirst Gripes With Pratt & Whitney Ahead of Relaunch
Internal sources have revealed to the website MoneyControl that Indian budget airline GoFirst plans to resume flights on May 24. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection at the start of May due to engine problems on its aircraft.
GoFirst will return with a smaller operation, operating four fewer aircraft than it currently has. The airline reports it has 51 departure slots at Delhi’s main airport and 37 departure slots in Mumbai.
“We acknowledge the flight cancellations might have disrupted your travel plans and we are committed to providing all the assistance we can,” the airline said. “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. We thank you for your patience.”
GoFirst’s Engine Problems
GoFirst’s fleet of Airbus A320NEO family aircraft is equipped entirely with Pratt & Whitney engines. Certain engines made by the airline have lately become notorious for their relatively high failure rate; GoFirst started experiencing problems with these engines after receiving its first Pratt & Whitney-powered A320NEO in 2017.
GoFirst has been battling with Pratt & Whitney for years over these engines. The two parties originally agreed that the engine manufacturer would compensate GoFirst for engine support. This agreement only lasted until 2019, part of the reason why GoFirst now says that the parts it is owed have been withheld.
In February 2023, Pratt & Whitney suggested a plan to offer replacement engines to GoFirst. Even at that time, up to half of GoFirst’s planes had been grounded due to engines with their Pratt & Whitney engines, costing the carrier over $1 billion. However, the engine maker said it could provide extra engines at a rate ¼ as fast as these engines failed. GoFirst subsequently filed for emergency arbitration, after which Pratt & Whitney was ordered to provide serviceable spare engines to the airline.
Back in Court
Now, as GoFirst prepares to restart flights, it has approached a court in Delaware to attempt to enforce the arbitrator’s decision. However, Pratt & Whitney says it faces additional risks as a result of the airline’s bankruptcy filing. The engine maker says it will pursue legal action against GoFirst, saying the airline, instead of being a victim, is nothing more than another insolvent airline that cannot uphold its contracts.
“Go First’s recent bankruptcy filing has radically changed the field of play in terms of Go First’s need for relief and IAE’s risk,” said a filing by International Aero Engines, in which Pratt & Whitney is a shareholder.
“Go First airline’s allegations that Pratt & Whitney is responsible for its financial condition are without merit. Pratt & Whitney will vigorously defend itself against Go First’s claims, and is pursuing its own legal recourse,” said a Pratt & Whitney spokesperson.
Other Pratt & Whitney Engine Issues
Pratt & Whitney says that GoFirst just wants to jump the line for engine delivery while the manufacturer recovers from ongoing supply chain issues. However, GoFirst is not the only airline suffering from Pratt & Whitney engine problems. Fellow Indian carrier IndiGo is also experiencing Pratt & Whitney issues on their Airbus aircraft, and KLM Cityhopper is experiencing issues with its Embraer E2 planes, which are powered by the same engines that GoFirst and IndiGo are using. Iraqi Airways has grounded its entire fleet of Airbus A220s, all powered by the same model of Pratt & Whitney engines, while Iraq’s Civil Aviation Authority investigates the engine issues.
“KLM Cityhopper is consulting with Embraer and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney to seek a solution for these issues, which have no impact on flight safety,” KLM said in a statement in May.
“The entire Indian aviation sector is hit due to sub-standard products supplied by the engine makers,” Go First chairman Varun Berry said in a statement.
“P&W cannot wash their hands off their liabilities after supplying sub-standard engines which has led to huge losses for all airlines. 18% of Indian aviation capacity is currently grounded due to non-supply of engines by P&W,” Berry continued.
“Supply chain recovery following the pandemic remains stressed. We believe the situation will stabilize throughout 2023. This will support the increased output of new and overhauled engines. In the interim, we are providing direct logistical support to our suppliers. We are expanding our MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) capacity and working to reduce shop visit turnaround times to improve service availability,” a spokesperson for Pratt & Whitney said.
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