Debt-ridden Kingfisher Airlines (KfA) operations were paralysed for the second day on Monday with some pilots and a section of employees resorting to strike protesting non-payment of salaries. Employees of the airline have not been paid salary since March 2012.
The airline is said to have cancelled all of its flights on Monday, drawing sharp reactions from aviation authorities who are considering corrective measures including shutting down KfA operations.
In a statement, KfA stated, “A section of KfA employees has not been reporting to work over the last fortnight and over the past 2 days, they have been threatening and even manhandling other employees who are reporting to work as usual.” Further anticipating more disruptions, they said that their schedules were likely to get affected. “With a view to mitigating the impact of these anticipated disruptions, we are proactively canceling several flights across our network for October 1, 2012.”
The Vijay Mallya-owned airline was reported to have operated only 7 flights last week, a number refuted by KfA officials who instead claimed to have operated 7 Airbus and 5 ATRs.
According to the civil aviation guidelines, any carrier must operate a minimum of five aircraft and any cancellations should be informed in advance to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). It is learnt that Union Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh would meet KfA officials on Tuesday to take stock of the situation.
Singh had earlier warned that he would revoke the company’s licence if safety was compromised or their fleet size fell below five aircraft. KfA had assured the aviation regulator that they would fly at least 120 flights per day and operate 20 aircraft, but have not been able to achieve.
Referring to the laid down norms, the Minister said so long as Kingfisher had no safety problem, possessed five aircraft and had `50 crore worth of working capital, “we can’t do anything”.
The airline, reeling under a loss of `8,000 crore and a debt burden of another over `7,000 crore, was refused a `200 crore working loan as well when its officials met the bankers consortium after the company annual general meeting (AGM) last week. The consortium, led by State Bank of India later said that the airline had not come up with any fresh ideas to revive the airline and are expected to meet in the third week of October again.
KfA Chairman Vijay Mallya had said, “We are very concerned about arrears in salary and doing everything possible to pay them and mitigate their hardships.” KfA raises an approximate wage bill of `40 crore per month.