Days ago when Go First Airlines filed for bankruptcy, it blamed its Airbus A320neo aircraft's engine supplier Pratt and Whitney (PW) for sending its business tumbling down. Now, in another part of the world, Lufthansa announced that it has had to ground a third of its fleet in Swiss subsidiary airlines in Zurich due to PW engine problems.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr in an earnings call said that its subsidiary Swiss International Air Lines had to ground a third of the Airbus A220s due to engine issues. Swiss International Air Lines had 30 A220s and an estimated 10 aircraft are said to be currently grounded, right ahead of the peak summer travel season.
Lufthansa temporarily grounds a third of its Airbus A220 fleet in Zurich due to issues with Pratt & Whitney engines pic.twitter.com/uI4TX1flyi
This has come as another blow to the American aerospace manufacturer as problems with its engines mount globally.
What happened with Go First?
Go First blamed PW for the airline's fall. And PW at the time hit back saying that the Wadia Group-owned airlines has had a lengthy history of non-payment. It did not elaborate on the financial commitments and disagreements between the two companies.
As of now, Go First has suspended all flights till May 9. Go First is also waiting to see if PW honours an arbitration order for the urgent delivery of engines.
If completed, Go First has said they will be able to resume operations by August/September 2023.
PW has claimed that it is prioritising keeping up with the arbitration order.
IndiGo is also suffering due to Pratt and Whitney groundings, not as badly though as they have ‘power by the hour’ contracts and when issues started on the PW 1100G they moved the second half of their A320N/A321N order to the CFM Leap-1A.
Go First's fiasco or Lufthansa's problems with Pratt and Whitney are not the first instances of issues brewing up with regard to the engines and their delivery.
PW has had bad press for its engines and engine delivery for a while. If anything, Covid-19 may or may not have exasperated the problems.
India's largest domestic carrier IndiGo was also one of the early operators of the A320neos who also opted for Pratt and Whitney engines.
But starting 2016 the same year the PW engines were inducted, IndiGo had to ground several aircraft due to recurring issues with the engines. Then there were significant delays in aircraft deliveries owing to PW engine problems.
In 2018, IndiGo faced cases of engine shutdown, flight cancellations and even an emergency landing due to its engine issues.
This forced IndiGo to lease aircraft from the open market to make up for the grounded ones. Later, IndiGo started operating its new line of A320ceos and new A320neos with PW's competitor CFM International's engines.
IndiGo also received millions of dollars in compensation from Pratt and Whitney and Airbus. Back then, IndiGo said that the compensation helped the airline make some profit.
On the other hand, Go First which powered its A320ceo planes with CFM engines, decided to rope in PW again in 2019 when it made a second order for Airbus aircraft despite facing issues with the PW engines with its earlier order.
However, it is not known why there is no news yet of Go First receiving compensation from Airbus and PW over the delays, issues, and groundings.
Other foreign carriers facing issues with PW engines:
Air Senegal cancelled its lease to receive Five Airbus A220 Aircraft earlier this year owing to issues with PW engines.
Air Tanzania had to temporarily cancel flights last year due to the same issue.
US-based low-cost carrier, Spirit Airlines, also faced similar PW engine concerns in February and said that its unit costs and profitability were being negatively affected.
How are engine suppliers chosen?
Usually, aircraft manufacturers offer airlines either exclusive engine suppliers for their aircraft models or give options. In the case of Airbus A220 aircraft, Pratt and Whitney is the exclusive engine supplier.
But with the A320neo family of aircraft, Airbus offers two engine options - one from PW and the other from CFM International.
In the case of options, Airlines choose their engine supplier based on various factors including - flight routing (short or long haul), lucrative deals, returning customer deals, other aircraft engines, fuel efficiency, less fleet maintenance costs, policy decisions, etc.
Pratt and Whitney's engines are popular with airlines as the engines are said to be fuel efficient, saving up to 16 percent fuel.