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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Some Kingfisher pilots go on strike, 5 flights cancelled

PTI  New Delhi/Mumbai, July 10, 2012
First Published: 13:48 IST(10/7/2012) | Last Updated: 15:05 IST(10/7/2012)

A section of pilots of Kingfisher Airlines on Tuesday went on a strike over non-payment of salary and other dues for the past five months, forcing cancellation of five flights.

Airline officials said the pilots who did not report to work were those who operate the 70-seater ATR turboprop aircraft on short-haul routes connecting regional airports.

In Delhi, two flights each to Dharamsala and Dehradun and one flight to Shimla have been cancelled by the Vijay Mallya-owned airline since Tuesday morning.

However, the Airbus A-320 operations of Kingfisher were going on as per the normal schedule, the officials maintained.

This is the second time in last eight days that the airline's pilots have gone on an agitation over non-payment of their dues.

"A section of the airline's pilots, mainly operating ATRs, did not report for duty on the salary payment issue. Owing to the agitation, the airline has cancelled five flights as we could not get pilots to operate the aircraft," the officials told PTI.

The number of pilots who have joined the agitation is not immediately known, they said, adding that Kingfisher CEO Sanjay Aggarwal was expected to meet the agitators soon.

Kingfisher Airlines spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

On July 2, when the pilots in Mumbai had threatened a strike, the management representatives had a meeting with the Mumbai-based employees and promised to start disbursing salaries from July 6.

The meeting was attended by CEO Aggarwal, executive vice president Hitesh Patel and chief financial officer HG Raghunath, besides a cross-section of employees, including pilots, cabin crew, engineers and ground handling staff.

While a large chunk of junior staffers got part of their dues, the airline management said the pilots and other staff would be paid in a few days thereafter.

"The pilots' patience now seems to be running out. How long one can survive without pay for such a long time? The management is simply doling out promises but what we need is money," an agitating pilot, requesting anonymity, said.

Kingfisher is, at present, carrying out truncated domestic and international operations with about 15 aircraft, in place of 64.

A large number of its flight engineers have reportedly quit over the past five months, primarily due to delayed payments. In April this year, around 200 engineers reported sick as a mark of protest over the issue.

The airline, which has not posted profit since inception in May 2005, has reported a loss of Rs. 1,151.50 crore in the March quarter, has a debt of over Rs. 7,500 crore and almost an equal amount of accumulated losses.

Last week, the airline had said it planned to sell off two unused properties in Mumbai and Goa to partly repay its staggering debt. This was among the proposals Kingfisher management had put before a 17-member lenders' consortium last Thursday.

These properties are likely to fetch Rs. 120 crore -- Rs. 90 for the Mumbai property and Rs. 30 crore for the Goan villa -- going by the current market value.

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