New Delhi: In fresh trouble for cash strapped Kingfisher Airlines, at least 15 planes leased to them have been stripped clean, the leasing company sources told CNN-IBN. The 15 aircraft have been stripped of crucial parts at various airports and have been declared not fit to fly.
Sources said that inspection of two aircraft in New Delhi found the passenger and cockpit interiors cleaned out. Airport authorities refused to take away aircraft till all dues are paid. Just seven Kingfisher aircraft are currently fit to fly.
Facing the real possibility of a shut down, Kingfisher Airlines management is slated to hold talks with its 4000 employees on Monday in Mumbai. Three days back the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) suspended its licence - putting the airline in further jeopardy. The employees have been seeking payments of all pending dues - they haven't been paid for seven months. But the management has so far offered just a month's salary. Sources said that if talks fail on Monday, striking employees will launch a nationwide protest and try and confront Chairman Vijay Mallaya at the F1 track in Greater Noida, where the races begin on October 26.
The DGCA had issued show-cause notice on October 5, to the liquor baron Vijay Mallya-owned airline asking why its flying licence should not be suspended or cancelled as it was not adhering to its flight schedule and "abruptly cancelling its flights time and again during the last 10 months", causing great inconvenience to the travelling public. The DGCA had given the airline a 15-day time to reply to its notice, which was to expire on Saturday.
Kingfisher was issued an airline licence on August 26, 2003. It was actually issued to Air Deccan which was bought over by Kingfisher. It is valid till December 31, 2012.
The sources said Kingfisher was on cash and carry by most service providers and the government did not want a situation where the airline re-starts operations and then keeps flying in fits and starts, as has been happening since last year-end. In the latest instance, its pilots and engineers went on strike from September 30 to protest against non-payment of salary since March. The airline then declared a lockout on first till October 4 and then extended it till October 20. It as further extended till October 23 on Friday.
Kingfisher, once India's second-biggest airline, last week extended what it has described as partial lock-out until October 12. India recently allowed foreign airlines to buy a maximum 49 per cent stake in local carriers, a move long lobbied for by Kingfisher, although no airline has publicly expressed an interest in investing in Kingfisher.
Kingfisher has been saddled with a huge loss of Rs 8,000 crore and a debt burden of over Rs 7,000 crore, a large part of which it has not serviced since January. Several of its aircraft have been either taken away by its lessors or grounded by the Airports Authority of India for non-payment of dues during the past few months. Kingfisher's net loss in 2010-11 was Rs 1,027 crore and it doubled to Rs 2,328 crore in 2011-2012. The airline also owes money to 17 banks.