With cash-starved Kingfisher Airlines defaulting on lease rentals of around Rs 1,000 crore, lessors have taken back 34 aircraft, according to a report. But the Vijay Mallya-owned carrier maintained it returned the aircraft voluntarily.
The report by PTI quoted unnamed sources as saying another 15 aircraft were grounded and the airline was left with 15 planes to carry out its operations. “Lessors have taken back as many as 34 aircraft from Kingfisher between March and June, owing to non-payment of lease rentals, which stand at around Rs 1,000 crore,” they said.
An airline spokesperson said in a text message: “There has been no forced return of aircraft to the lessors. Whenever we have returned planes, we have voluntarily done so.”
Though the PTI report stated the lessors had taken back 34 planes, records of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation show 47 aircraft are still registered in the name of Kingfisher Airlines. The 47 planes include two helicopters and an airbus A319 used by chairman Mallya. In 2011, the airline had 66 planes.
Kingfisher had sent three wide-body airbus A330 planes to Zurich for cabin reconfiguration and engine overhaul, sources told Business Standard. But it isn’t clear whether the airline would induct these planes or return these to the lessors. A few airbus A320s are also undergoing engineering checks abroad. It is also learnt that the airline would return four or five ATR planes to its lessors soon.
Kingfisher’s lease rentals fell to Rs 101 crore in the fourth quarter of 2011-12, from Rs 247 crore in the same period last year. Quarterly loss widened to Rs 1,151 crore, from Rs 355 crore, following suspension of flights and drop in revenue. Six months ago, the ailing carrier had planned its winter schedule with 64 aircraft, but with several of those grounded and being returned to lessors, the airline announced in March that it would operate 120 flights with 20 planes in its summer schedule. Kingfisher Airlines has defended the curtailment of its schedule and the suspension of operations at some airports, terming downsizing a “holding plan”.
“The airline has just 15 aircraft worth flying and a majority of those are ATRs,” PTI sources said. According to them, the 15 aircraft in service include eight ATRs, an A319, four A320s and two A321s. The airline today operates 100-odd flights with these aircraft, and has withdrawn from international operations.
Kingfisher has not been able to pay salaries since February nor it has managed to pay its dues to oil companies and airports. It has also defaulted on payment of service tax and TDS to the government. Salary woes have also led to exodus of pilots and engineers. According to agency reports, 60-80 engineers have quit the airline in the past five months.