The murk with Kingfisher Airlines gets deeper by the day. The airline has a foot-to-mouth existence for the past few months and we all know that. They haven’t been able to pay salaries to the staff for the past 3 months, and last month there was news that many senior pilots have jumped ship to rival LCC Indigo Airlines, where they were offered a 4 month joining bonus if they signed up before 15th February 2012.
There is breaking news on Indian television right now that over the past 2 days, i.e., 18th to 20th February 2012, about half the staff strength of 7,000 employees has put in their papers. As if not being paid for 3 months was not enough source of agony for the staff, the airline has now offered a paltry sum of INR 5,000 ($100) to the employees to cover emergency payments. Employee reactions state that they hope the 6-month notice period will not be applicable in their case. When the last bout of about 20 pilots quit, KFA tried the same tactic, but the aviation regulator over-ruled and let them go because the airline could not pay them. The amount being offered sure is a pittance!
In the latest round of events that started with Kingfisher Airlines shutting down its Kolkata (CCU) operations on Saturday, where it cancelled 16 flights for about 10 days, apparently due to a flash strike by the employees. Rumors prevailed the next major base which was going to be shut down was Hyderabad (HYD) on Sunday where a few flights were already cancelled. Flights from Delhi (DEL) and Mumbai (BOM) were also affected. Late last year the airline shutdown the smaller bases in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and towns of India. And now, the big centres are being shut down. Flights affected are not just to domestic destinations, but internationally, to Bangkok (BKK), Singapore (SIN), Dhaka (DAC) and Kathmandu (KTM). On Saturday, 60 flights did not operate, and as of Monday, 48 out of 64 flights scheduled today did not operate.
The naive responses from Kingfisher don’t seem to stop coming. The airline started a cover-up operation, by issuing a media statement on Facebook on Saturday that the flights were cancelled because of bird hits! Oh come on, KFA, you used that excuse the last time you brought your airline down to 1/2 its size. Apparently, out of the 64 planes from the airline, only 20 are airworthy and in the air right now. The rest are grounded because their is no money to pay the leases for them, or they are in poor shape like this broken bird below (VT-ADR) at Delhi Airport’s tarmac.
The airline, on its part, is leaving no stone unturned in passing the buck for its current mess. This evening, it issued a new statement, again on Facebook, where it parked the blame on the Indian Income Tax authorities, who have seized some accounts for some non-payments to the revenue authorities apparently.
Amongst all this, the inconvenience is clearly for the passenger. Flights are being dumped left, right and center. And you could turn up at the airport to find out your flight ain’t flying. So, this mess has not resolved yet. I am trying to put together an updated list of flights that have been cancelled, but problem is, the GDS systems are not being updated yet.
The Indian regulator, DGCA, will pull up the airline tomorrow in a meeting where the CEO is going to be present. No concrete measures to fix the mess are out in the open yet, but the airline claims all is well and things are normal. On the other hand, the financial results show zero networth of the airline. The Government of India has ruled out giving a bailout to the airline as well.
At this stage, booking your flights on Kingfisher is taking a risk on your hands. Keep off and trust another carrier with your business.