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BW Businessworld

Kingfisher CEO To Meet DGCA, More Flights Cancelled

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At least 30 flights of Kingfisher Airlines were cancelled Tuesday morning as the top brass of the cash-strapped carrier was set to appear before aviation regulator to explain reasons for large-scale disruptions in schedules.

While 13 flights were cancelled from Mumbai, 8 were cancelled from Kolkata and four from Delhi leaving many passengers stranded. The major air route of Mumbai-Delhi was the worst-hit with maximum cancellations and clubbing of flights.

Kingfisher shares plunged as much as nearly 20 per cent on Tuesday ahead of the meeting with DGCA.

Massive Disruption
Controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher has cancelled 32 out of the 240 flights that it operates each day, the airlines said on Saturday, adding that it expected to return to full service within days.

However, the carrier cancelled 30 flights Monday including those to Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu and Dhaka, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at various airports across the country. The carrier said it was forced to cancel flights because tax authorities had frozen its bank accounts, hurting its ability to make operational payments.

Kingfisher CEO Sanjay Aggarwal and other officials are set to met Directorate General of Civil Aviation chief E K Bharat Bhushan Tuesday and give a revival plan of their disrupted flight schedule. The DGCA has asked the struggling carrier to explain why it has cancelled a large number of flights since Saturday.

Additionally, the carrier faced fresh problems Monday with 34 pilots quitting and a large number of staff being put on notice.

The resignation of the pilots have taken the total number of those who have quit to about 80 since last October, industry sources said.

Plans To Return Aircraft
Kingfisher plans to return some aircraft voluntarily to lessors after defaulting on payments and a fresh exodus of pilots.

It will return two more Airbus A320s this month to their lessors, as their leases have been terminated because of payment defaults, Mint reported Tuesday, citing a government official who declined to be named.

Of the 64 planes in its fleet, Kingfisher is using just over a dozen to operate flights currently, the newspaper said.

The Times of India newspaper said that 35 of Kingfisher's A320 commanders quit the airline on February 14, followed by another over the weekend. In all, about 300-350 pilots have quit the airline in the last six months, it said, without citing any sources.

Cash Crunch
Kingfisher has been suffering from a severe cash crunch that has culminated into the Income Tax authorities freezing its bank accounts last week on grounds of non-payment of tax dues.

Banks own about a quarter of cash-strapped Kingfisher, which has so far been unable to attract fresh equity amid growing worries about its future.

Kingfisher, named after the country's most famous beer, lost Rs 440 crore in the fiscal third quarter that ended in December.

Indian airline companies, on course to lose Rs 14,730 crore for the year ending in March, have struggled with low fares, high jet fuel prices and fierce competition. Five out of six major carriers in India are losing money.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh had ruled out any bailout of Kingfisher.

"As far as Kingfisher or any other private airline is concerned, they have to present their business plan to the banks and if they (banks) are satisfied with that, and if it is within RBI guidelines, then they will lend money," he had said.