Airline cannot be turned around, say bankers

Passengers flying Kingfisher Airlines may continue to face hardships in the coming days. On Saturday, the airline cancelled several of its regular flights as employees decided to stay home, protesting non-payment of wages for the past five months.

While the airline did not specify the number of flights affected, sources indicated that over 30 flights were not operated on Saturday. At least 12 flights out of Delhi, 18 from Bangalore and four from Mumbai were cancelled. The airline offered the affected passengers a full refund. The airline currently operates around 100 daily services — down from over 400 at the beginning of the year.

Letter to staff

In a statement on Saturday, the airline said that 25 per cent of the staff who had not been paid were assured of payment by July 16. “But despite this, a section of employees decided to stay at home,” the statement said. In the first week of July, pilots had threatened to go on strike over non-payment of salaries. The strike was called off after the management promised to pay salaries from July 6.

Meanwhile, the airline’s Chairman, Mr Vijay Mallya, is believed to have written to his employees saying “one of the main reasons that has motivated me into investing more money to keep Kingfisher flying is that I see light ahead. I invite you to share my confidence and work towards realising that light.”

The cancellation of flights comes days after the former Director-General of Civil Aviation, Mr E.K. Bharat Bhushan, is believed to have made a noting on a file asking Kingfisher to pay back-wages and vendors’ dues in the next 15 days or face closure. Mr Bhushan was moved out of the DGCA soon thereafter, while the Government denied that any such file noting existed.

No profits

Kingfisher Airlines owes Rs 6,500 crore to 17 banks and reported a loss of Rs 1,151.52 crore during the fourth quarter last fiscal. The airline’s stock closed at Rs 10.33 on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Friday. The airline has made no profits since its launch in May 2005.

With the airline reportedly defaulting on lease rentals of over Rs 1,000 crore, lessors recently repossessed 34 of its aircraft.

Bankers say that, given its current fleet strength and truncated schedule, the beleaguered airline cannot be turned around. Debtor-creditor meetings held so far have not yielded results.

Meanwhile, on Friday the new DG, Mr Prashant Sukul, in a meeting with airline CEOs, told them to ensure timely payment of salaries to employees.

(This article was published on July 14, 2012)
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