Cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) has shut down cabin crew bases in Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai in the latest episode of a financial crunch that threatens liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s dream aviation project.
The airline has also closed down its Hyderabad base for pilots as the struggling airline, which has been put on a no-credit, only-cash basis by Mumbai’s airport authorities as it copes with a mountain of debt amid regulatory price restrictions.
“To optimise crew utilisation we have simply offered the crew to relocate to Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore,” a KFA spokesperson told Hindustan Times.
Pilots are being allowed to leave, with their notice periods waived.
A turbulent flight all the way
Industry sources said the airline is planning a major downsizing of its fleet and many of its aircraft on lease could be returned back to lessors. However, the Kingfisher spokesperson denied this.
As reported by HT last month, more than 25 aircraft of its fleet of 66 were grounded in November due to maintenance issues and disputes with lessors.
The aviation regulator recently cancelled 175 slots allotted to KFA after it was found operating flights on only 243 of the 418 slots allotted to it. The sources said some more pilot bases could be closed down soon.
“KFA is scaling back its size quite rapidly to stave off its financial obligations to staff. In closing its bases, one has to wonder just how long the carrier can survive in its present guise because the omens look worse than bleak,” said Saj Ahmad, a London-based aviation analyst.
The airline is also relieving pilots who have quit, without making them serve a mandatory six-month notice period. More than 130 pilots have quit Kingfisher in the past few months in an exodus spurred by the financial crunch that has made the once-prized talent feel like unwanted guests.
Optimism largely rests on how Mallya can persuade bankers and investors.
“KFA is working out a more realistic and credible business plan which is to be accepted by lenders and future investors. It is likely to operate with a reduced fleet size and consolidate operations to quickly turn profitable,” said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO of aviation consulting firm Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation.