In principle, there is nothing wrong with a budget airline. You just have to be particular about where the budget cuts are coming from. For instance, it is okay to cut corners with the in-flight meal, but not with safety.
Budget airline Lion Air did the latter over a period of two decades. Business Insider has more on the story.
“Despite its grip on the market, Lion Air has been criticized in the past over poor operational management and safety measures, which led to its exclusion from operating in European airspace in 2007 because of safety concerns.
“That ban was lifted in June 2016.
“And on Sunday, just a day before the fatal crash, the same jet experienced technical issues with its altitude and airspeed readings, forcing the captain to hand over control to the first officer, according to logs obtained by the BBC.
“Monday’s crash was the latest in a string of at least 15 safety incidents involving Lion Air over the last decade and a half.”
On Monday, Lion Air flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea a mere 13 minutes after it took off. All 189 passengers are believed to be lost.
Based in Jakarta, Lion Air is the largest airline in Indonesia. It is a growing business with plans to expand its fleet even more. The problem cannot be laid entirely at the feet of older planes not being replaced in a timely manner.
All airlines have some minor maintenance issues. But in the case of Lion Air, this is not a matter of a one-off situation. All the warning signs have been there for a very long time. It is a systemic and well-documented problem.
In 2013, a plane was totaled on the runway. Fortunately, there were no fatalities. The plane was not able to take off before crashing into trees 300 felt from the end of the runway.
In 2004, a plane skidded off the runway during heavy rain. It plowed into a fence leaving 25 dead, including the captain.
In 2006, a Lion Air plane crash landed, was thrust sharply to the right, and skidded off the runway. Again, there were no fatalities. But the plane was written off as a total loss. The accident was due to a malfunction in the left engine thrust reverser prior to departure.
Many of the incidents occurred within the last couple of years. The latest crash was not the only incident that happened this year. During the 13 minutes airtime of the latest fatal flight, the plane dropped 221 meters in 21 seconds. The flight crew knew there was a problem and asked for permission to turn around. There was no response.
The plane itself was one of the latest and best from Boeing. We will know more when the blackbox is recovered and examined.