New Delhi: Troubled Kingfisher Airlines Chairman Vijay Mallya will be attending the Indian Grand Prix event at Greater Noida later this week. Mallya will be returning at a time when the airline is in the middle of a crisis. The employees of Kingfisher Airlines wanted to speak directly to Mallya on their issues, but they were not given permission to do so. They are seeking four months' pay by October 26.
Under fire over the crisis and with agitated employees asking where he is, Mallya broke his silence, slamming sections of the media for calling him an "absconder". "I travel 24x7 where my multiple work responsibilities take me. Sections of media call me an absconder because I don't talk to them," Mallya said in a tweet. Mallya's tweet came against the backdrop of his absence at the talks or negotiations the management of the debt-ridden private carrier has been holding with the employees over the past two weeks.
Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Kingfisher employee Subhash Chandra Mishra had said, "I believe in Dr Mallya, but not in Sanjay Agarwal or Hitesh Patel, because many times they have gone wrong. In the past 13 months, we have got only five salaries. How can you trust them?" "Let Dr Mallya come and our representative will go and talk to him face to face. If he says something, then we may accept, but not Sanjay Agarwal or Hitesh Patel," he added. Subash Chandra Mishra, a Kingfisher employee, questioned Vijay Mallya's silence over the matter.
The crisis in Kingfisher Airlines following a 23-day lockout is likely to prolong with a large section of employees sticking to its refusal of the management's offer on payment of salary dues even as its owner Vijay Mallya said he was not an "absconder". The airline employees, who held meetings in Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai, rejected the offer of payment of three months' salaries in a staggered manner as part payment of its dues and insisted that it should be paid in lumpsum.
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.