Kingfisher Airlines is headed for more of a crisis, with a section of its pilots striking work over unpaid salaries, airport operators turning it down and its lessors threatening to take control unless dues are cleared.
Pilots are protesting even as Kingfisher chairman Vijay Mallya said in a media interview he’d re-capitalise the airline whether or not the proposal to allow foreign direct investment in the aviation sector was allowed. The airline management wrote to the flight operations department that the salaries for March would be paid from next Monday. However, these assurances failed to convince the agitating employees.
On Wednesday, 30 of the airline's flights were cancelled. In Delhi, flights to Chandigarh, Dehradun and other places in the region were disrupted as pilots stayed away. The airline has downsized operations, operating a little over 100 flights. Its market share has fallen to five per cent, the smallest among domestic airlines; it is only plying barely a dozen of its planes. Several of the pilots have already left to join other airlines.
The airline had posted a Rs 1,150 crore loss in the fourth quarter of 2011-12. It is expected to announce its next quarterly result on Friday.
With mounting dues and revenue shortfall, the airline is finding to difficult to make timely payments to its suppliers, including oil companies and creditors. Airport operators, too, are piling pressure to clear their dues. The GMR Group-run Delhi International Airport Ltd and government-run Airports Authority of India have both disallowed the airline or its lessors from moving their planes out from Delhi and Chennai airport, respectively.
“There are four Kingfisher planes parked in Delhi. The airline and its lessor wanted to fly out one for a maintenance check abroad but we have refused the permission. Kingfisher has been clearing dues but it still owes us around Rs 30 crore,” a Delhi airport executive said. A Kingfisher spokesperson did not respond to an email query on the issue.
"I will share funding plans at an appropriate time. As of now, all I will say is Kingfisher will be back to its glory and be sustainably profitable. That is why we are keeping the employees on our rolls. It is sad that they have not been paid for some time but we are working very hard to resolve all issues," Mallya said in an interview.