Kingfisher Airlines cancelled over 30 flights for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday severely inconveniencing passengers at airports across the country, even as some cockpit and cabin crew failed to join duty reporting sick.
Over the past four days, the Vijay Mallya-owned airline has cancelled over 120 flights maintaining they were taking some aircraft off their schedule to add business class seats in the planes.
Aviation sources said 30-odd pilots and cabin crew have not reported for duty in the past few days on grounds of sickness, but discounted reports that 100 pilots had quit the airline recently.
The airline's flight schedule has also been severely hit with three oil companies -- HPCL, IOC and BPCL--stopping granting credit to it for lifting jet fuel and putting it on a cash-and-carry payment mode.
Kingfisher is yet to reply to a show-cause notice issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) as to why it had not taken the regulator's prior approval to curtail its flight schedules as required by the Aircraft Rules, 1937, official sources said, adding they were expecting a reply in a couple of days.
Under Rule 140(A), an airline has to obtain DGCA's concurrence before starting a new route or discontinuing a flight at least a week before taking such a step.
Passengers at major airports complained of harrassment and inconvenience saying they had to rebook themselves on other airlines paying a premium of 20-40% at the last moment.
With some cockpit and cabin crew members not reporting for duty, the aviation sources said Kingfisher staff were apparently unhappy over delay in payment of their October salary and allowances.
Kingfisher has suffered a loss of Rs 1027 crore in 2010-11 and has a debt of over Rs 7057.08 crore.
The sources said the airline has grounded eight of its leased turboprop ATR aircraft.
The cash-strapped carrier also has unpaid dues to the operators of airports and other agencies, which have been putting pressure on it.
In the notice sent on Wesdnesday, the DGCA has asked Kingfisher to explain what steps it has taken so far to take care of the passengers who were booked on the flights that were cancelled.
The facilitation of passengers include returning their airfares, accommodating them in alternate flights or providing them alternate modes of transportation.
DGCA has asked the airline whether it had kept in view the provisions of rules under the Civil Aviation Requirement on the "facilities to be provided to passengers in case of denial of boarding, flight cancellations and flight delays".
The airline, which cancelled over 30 flights on Thursday, has said, "For a limited period, these flights are either being cancelled or clubbed with other Kingfisher flights in a well-controlled and pre-determined manner.
"In continuation of our earlier announcement to focus on the full-service market, KFA has initiated reconfiguration of its aircraft," according to it.