Cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) has stopped flight operations out of Lucknow and Kolkata and employees feared a fresh round of layoffs as the carrier moved to operate a truncated schedule using only 16 aircraft of the 64 it ran at its peak.
The airline was going through the latest episode of bleeding even as chairman Vijay Mallya tweeted that India's global image was suffering, a remark coming in the wake of his plea for the government to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in aviation. "India's global image has taken a beating. Nobody seems to be confident that India is a great investment opportunity. Why are we going so wrong."
While the airline did not respond to mails from HT, sources said it had pulled out its flights to Delhi and Mumbai from Lucknow. Sources at the Kolkata airport said the airline had stopped both international as well as all domestic flights operating out of the city.
"KFA has already sacked 50% of employees here," said a KFA official in Lucknow.
Mallya had last week announced that the airline was suspending all international operations, leading to speculation on the future of its 7,000-odd employees and fears of a massive layoff.
KFA has around 520 pilots as per the figures submitted with the aviation regulator. "An airline needs six-and-a-half sets of pilots (13 pilots) per aircraft," said aviation expert Captain Mohan Ranganthan. So, 208 pilots would be required to fly 16 aircraft.
"Even if you keep an additional 50 pilots for emergencies, KFA, at most, requires around 250 pilots. So obviously, it has pilots in excess," said another aviation expert.
A consortium of 13 public sector banks, including State Bank of India, have an exposure of Rs 5,608.07 crore to KFA as on February 2012, government informed the Lok Sabha last Friday.
KFA's shares tumbled 6.69% to close at Rs 16.8 on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Monday.