Recently, the pilots of an Indian airline received an email from one of their c-level officers, stating that the Boeing 737-900s in the fleet are on their way out. The email reportedly did not include details concerning the fleet size.

Considering that the airline in discussion has six Boeing 737-900s in the fleet, of which one has entered storage, but the remaining five are still flying for the airline, speculations were rife in the airline, among its Boeing flight crew, that the fleet will drop from the present strength of 33 to around 26. If the Boeing 737-900 that entered storage is to be discounted, the Boeing fleet strength drops to 28. Some flight crew believed the fleet size will drop to 26, considering six 737-900s and one Boeing 737-800 that, according to their observations, has been on ground for long.

No, there were no rival airlines that were spreading rumours. Rather, it was the lack of information in the email that had led to speculation. Very evidently, any flight crew who receives such information will do the fleet math to come to a conclusion – perhaps based on incomplete information but definitely not baseless- about further fleet downsizing. While the c-level officer may have sent out the email to keep his employees informed – a commendable practice – apparently one key aspect was missed out – to think of the consequences of such information – generation of rumours about the health of the airline, and a loss of confidence in the future of the airline, among the very people whose morale he intends to boost.

What he stated was fact. However, sources reveal that the airline may be leasing Boeing 737-800s from an overseas carrier. The 737-900s don’t fit in well in the airline, and replacing them with the lower capacity -800s is a wise thing to do, to standardise the fleet. This key piece of information, for employees to realise that the fleet size will remain unaffected, and that the airline was further optimising and streamlining, was missed out.

Did the chief officer err by not mentioning the induction of -800 aircraft? No. Was the email well intended? Yes- there is no reason to believe otherwise. There may be no need to share forward looking information, as failure to acquire the assets on time will again raise a question on the health of the airline. What he possibly could have done was to add a line stating that the airline will be taking measures to ensure the fleet size remains unchanged. The ambiguous line, surprisingly, will have just sufficient information to answer more questions than raise doubts.