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Sun, May 07, 2023

Lufthansa Joins Go First in Grounding Airbus Jets

Difficulties with Pratt & Whitney Engines Cited

Days after Indian ultra-low-cost airline Go First grounded its Airbus A320neo fleet, German flag-carrier Lufthansa announced on Thursday, 04 May 2023 that it would temporarily ground one-third of its Zurich subsidiary’s Airbus A220 fleet, citing issues with the aircrafts’ Pratt & Whitney engines.

The Cologne-headquartered airline set forth in a prosaically German statement: "Lufthansa temporarily grounds a third of its Airbus A220 fleet in Zurich due to issues with Pratt & Whitney engines.”

Lufthansa’s Swiss subsidiary operates thirty A220s. Rudimentary mathematics dictates, ergo, that ten of the aircraft are AOG.

On 03 May 2023, Mumbai-based Go First airlines ceased operations and filed an application for voluntary insolvency resolution proceedings before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

Go First CEO Kaushik Khona ascribed blame for his company’s woes to Pratt & Whitney, stating Go First was “forced to apply to the NCLT” in the wake of an “ever-increasing number of failing engines supplied by Pratt & Whitney.”

Go First’s fleet comprised Airbus A320neo narrow-body jets exclusively. Subject model is powered by Pratt and Whitney’s PW-1100G Geared-TurboFan (GTF) engine—a highly complex powerplant plagued, to date, by widespread design and functionality issues.

Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes intimated that up to five-years are likely to pass before the reliability of Pratt & Whitney’s geared-turbofan NEO (New Engine Option) engines equals that of the engine-maker’s CEO (Current Engine Option) models, by which older iterations of the A320 were powered.

Raytheon is Pratt & Whitney’s parent company.

The engine failures to which Lufthansa and Mr. Khona referred resulted in the grounding of 25 of the Go First’s 53 Airbus A320neo narrow-body airliners and occasioned major financial losses. The subsequent grounding of Lufthansa’s A220 fleet will face the German air-carrier with similar losses.

During a telephone conference with airline industry analysts, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr stated: "The idling of the narrow-body aircraft is on top of three other brand new aircraft with Pratt engines that are also down."

Spohr opined Pratt & Whitney ought rethink its infrastructure, stating: "Way down in the supply chains, there are elements missing and companies need to rebuild their production facilities.”

Lacking Lufthansa’s fleet and financial resources, Go First sought short-term remedy by petitioning Singapore’s International Arbitration Centre, which ultimately rendered a decision in favor of the Indian airline. The arbitrator ordered Pratt & Whitney to dispatch at least ten serviceable spare engines within 28 days and a further ten engines every month until the end of 2023. In a statement, the arbitrator set forth Go First urgently required the engines to reduce the number of aircraft on the ground. The arbitrator posited Go First would suffer irreparable harm were emergency relief not rendered.

Pratt & Whitney, however, provided Go First only three replacement engines, compelling the airline to file an application seeking enforcement of the arbitrator’s decision with the U.S. District Court of Delaware.

In its plea, Go First declared: “If P&W does not immediately comply with the arbitration award, there is a significant risk that the company will go out of business and be forced to declare bankruptcy.”

Pratt & Whitney, which spent upwards of $10-billion developing its PW-1100G engine only to face the dual indignities of delivery delays and numerous in-flight shut-downs deriving of engine component and material failures, has disputed Go First’s claims, contending its feud with the airline is presently subjudice, and asserting it continues to prioritize engine deliveries to all customers.

According to Go First’s court filing, Pratt & Whitney, in an 03 April communique, acknowledged its responsibility to honor the arbitration award, but informed the airline that no spare leased engines were available, alleging engines slated to be released from repair stations had been committed to other customers prior to the announcement of the arbitration award.

Speaking at Barclays investor conference in February 2023, aforementioned Raytheon CEO Gregory Hayes tacitly acknowledged Go First’s and Lufthansa’s grievances, stating: “Our customers are not particularly happy with the fact that we can’t get engines to them in time because of the large numbers that are coming in for all of these retrofits.”

FMI: www.lufthansa.com

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