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BW Businessworld

KFA Extends Lockout; To Meet Staff On 22 Oct Again

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The management of Kingfisher Airlines (KFA), grounded since 29 September, will be meeting striking pilots and engineers again on Monday in a bid to end the three-week imbroglio, senior pilots said on 17 October, indicating the crippled airline will have to extend the lockout for a second time. Earlier in the day, the KFA management, led by Chief Executive Sanjay Aggarwal and HR head Hitesh Patel met the representatives of pilots and engineers for nearly three hours at the Shaw Wallace House in south Mumbai to iron out issues arising out of seven months of unpaid salaries.
According to some pilots, the management offered to pay one-month salary immediately to resume operations. But the employees have not accepted the proposal as of now. We have agreed to meet again on Monday next, two pilots told PTI late in the evening after the meeting, which was described by both Aggarwal and employees as "very good and moving in the right direction".
Earlier this month, banks released around Rs 60 crore to KFA from an escrow account of service tax department on "humanitarian grounds" to pay salaries to the employees. The private airline's monthly wage bills stand around Rs 20 crore.
When contacted to confirm the Monday meeting and the extension of the lockout, UB Group President Ravi Nedugandi declined to do so, saying "only the airline spokesman can speak on such matters". The KFA spokesperson did not answer phone calls and text messages.
After the meeting, Aggarwal told reporters that they will have to look at extending the lockout a second time beyond 20 October as the meeting with the striking employees on Wednesday failed to resolve the deadlock.
The debt-ridden airline, grounded since the past three weeks, had on October 10 said it would resume operations from 20 October. "We will have to look at extending the lockout for a few more days... The meeting with the representatives of pilots and engineers was very good. The discussions are moving in the right direction," Aggarwal said, emerging from the meeting. But he did not give a timeline for the next meeting.
Kingfisher Airline, launched in May 2005, has never made profit, and is sitting on a debt pile of over Rs 8,000 crore, including over Rs 420 crore of tax arrears. A group of 17 lenders, led by State Bank of India, have declared their Rs 7,000 crore advances to KFA as non-performing since January and have been refusing any fresh lifeline to the airline till the management infused fresh funds into the carrier.