Kingfisher Airlines is unlikely to fly again, according to India’s Aviation Minister.
Speaking to New Delhi Television yesterday (22 October 2012), Ajit Singh said it would be “very difficult” for the cash-strapped carrier to resume operations. Kingfisher was officially grounded by India’s aviation authorities on Saturday, when its flying license was suspended. However the carrier’s fleet has not operated since 1 October due to an employee strike over unpaid wages.
Kingfisher has not made a profit since it launched in 2005 and has been operating a severely reduced schedule this year in an effort to cut expenditure. Staff also claim they have not been paid for up to seven months, which has led to industrial action and further flight disruptions. Last week Hyderabad Airport’s operator said it was pursuing a case with Kingfisher’s owner, Vijay Mallya, over unpaid fees. An arrest warrant was briefly issued for the flamboyant Bengaluru-based billionaire, with was later withdrawn.
It is thought that Mallya is still seeking an overseas investor for Kingfisher, but time would appear to be running out. British Airways’ parent company IAG was believed to be interested in taking a stake in the carrier, and had sponsored its entry into the oneworld alliance. But no deal appears to be on the table at present.
In the TV interview Singh also sympathised with Kingfisher’s striking workers, who, he said, “must be feeling that they have been taken for a ride”.
Kingfisher maintains that it will resume flights however. It has suspended forward bookings until 6 November, but said in a statement; “It is our endeavour to restart operations at the earliest and we assure you we are working towards achieving this.”
Kingfisher had operated international routes to several Asian destinations, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.