The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) denied claims made by Indian budget air carrier SpiceJet declaring that the airline had passed a “comprehensive audit” conducted by the United Nations agency in November 2022.
“SpiceJet operations, safety processes, and systems have been found to be in order following an exhaustive audit conducted by the ICAO. The comprehensive audit by ICAO firmly establishes SpiceJet’s credentials as a safe airline. ICAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation around the world,” SpiceJet announced in a statement on December 5, 2022.
At the time, SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh claimed that the ICAO has found the airline’s safety culture, systems, processes, and operations “to be in order and at par with the global best practices and safety standards.” The executive also misleadingly announced that the carrier had become “the only scheduled Indian airline” to undergo ICAO validation checks.
“SpiceJet is truly humbled at playing a role in India achieving the highest ever safety ranking and making it to the top 50 nations in terms of ICAO aviation safety audit scores,” Singh said.
However, the ICAO said it has not audited any Indian airline.
ICAO response: “visits to airlines are not audits or inspections”
SpiceJet’s statement has received further scrutiny after the ICAO revealed it does not perform audits of air carriers or airports. Instead, the organization conducts “industry visits”, which are dedicated to “verify the effectiveness of the civil aviation authority’s safety oversight”, according to the ICAO’s communications officer William Raillant-Clark.
On December 12, 2022, ICAO said that its team went on a Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) to India between November 9 and November 16, 2022, which was dedicated “to validate progress in addressing the findings from previous Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) activities”.
“ICAO wishes to clarify that visits to operators are not audits or inspections at all,” the agency’s communications officer said.
SpiceJet, alongside Indian airlines such as Go First, Air India Express and IndiGo among others, has come under increased scrutiny by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) after a number of passenger aircraft were involved in incidents during recent months.
Frequent safety issues occurring during flights performed by Indian carriers were also brought to the attention of the ICAO, which conducted a visit to overview India’s aviation safety oversight system.