Pratt & Whitney engine issues disturb summer flight schedules, leaving airlines scrambling

  • Pratt & Whitney's engine complications will affect 1,200 GTF engines, with inspections and fixes expected to take up to 60 days.
  • Airlines already face challenges due to shortages of pilots, air traffic controllers, and planes, and this engine issue compounds these problems.
  • Major airlines affected include Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and Wizz Air, with several needing external maintenance support and facing potential capacity adjustments.

EAST HARTFORD —Facing an active summer travel season, airlines are hit with an unexpected challenge. Pratt & Whitney's recently disclosed issues with their GTF engines, vital for Airbus' A320neo jets, are causing significant disruptions. With over 1,200 engines requiring thorough checks and potential repairs due to contaminants in a metal core component, the next 60 days promise to be turbulent for the aviation industry.

Airlines are already under strain, navigating pilot and plane shortages along with a lack of air traffic controllers. Hawaiian Airlines, for instance, alluded to the need to modify its capacity based on the availability of replacement parts. With some of its Airbus fleet previously grounded because of engine shortages, CEO Peter Ingram indicated a potential delay in full fleet availability.

Spirit Airlines, adjusting to the situation, had previously reduced its operational projections for 2023, attributing it to engine deficits. In a ripple effect, repair shop capacity constraints have multiplied engine repair durations by three. CFO Scott Haralson highlighted how these challenges, even before the recent engine issues, were denting the company's profitability.

JetBlue's schedule, already adjusted out of New York owing to air traffic controller deficits, has another problem to contend with. The carrier is currently coordinating with Pratt & Whitney to understand the extent of the engine problem's repercussions. Warnings had already been sounded regarding vulnerabilities tied to these GTF engines.

Insiders in the airline sector have voiced their concerns, albeit mostly privately. The latest developments have shocked many. An unnamed executive even termed the situation as a "nasty surprise."

Moreover, carriers such as Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and Wizz Air find themselves in a tight spot. Their dependence on external maintenance providers, due to a lack of in-house aircraft repair capabilities, adds to their woes. Addison Schonland from the AirInsight consultancy highlighted the unfortunate timing and stressed the challenges faced by these carriers given the overburdened state of repair facilities.

Meanwhile, Wizz Air expects a dip in its first-half capacity. With 12 of its fleet's engines impacted, there might be a silver lining. They anticipate that strong passenger demand could push up ticket prices, balancing out their profits in these challenging times.

In a bid to manage the upheaval, RTX emphasized its commitment to mitigate disruptions and support its airline clients. But with northern hemisphere airlines preparing for the typically profitable summer season, these disruptions could be a significant setback.