India's troubled Kingfisher called in by regulator

Feb 20, 2012 - 01:14
  • In a file picture taken on November 11, 2011, a lone traveller (background) makes inquiries at the Kingfisher Airlines booking counter at the airport in Mumbai. PHOTO/ AFP

India's aviation regulator on Monday summoned cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines to explain scores of cancelled flights over recent days, as the carrier's problems mounted.

Debt-laden Kingfisher cancelled 16 flights on Monday from Mumbai and several more from New Delhi, on top of scrapping more than 30 flights the previous day, triggering chaos for passengers.

India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) called in the airline's chief executive Sanjay Aggarwal for a meeting on Tuesday, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

"We have received reports about large-scale cancellations. They are bound to inform us when they cut their schedule. But they have not done so," DGCA chief E.K. Bharat Bhushan told the agency.

Kingfisher, which announced a third quarter loss of $88 million last week, has been beset with difficulties caused by soaring fuel costs and high local sales taxes, as well as a domestic price war.

The airline blamed some of the disruptions in operations -- the second time since November -- on bird strikes. It said a full daily schedule of 240 flights should return to operation over this week.

India's civil aviation minister Ajit Singh reiterated on Monday that private firms such as Kingfisher would not be bailed out.

"The government is not going to ask banks to bail out any private airline, or any private industry for that matter," Singh told television channels.

The Bangalore-based airline, owned by colourful brewing magnate Vijay Mallya, has never posted a net profit since it started operating in 2005 and has seen its passenger market share slump in recent months to 12 percent.

A quarter of Kingfisher is owned by local banks and some have refused to lend the company more cash unless fresh capital is raised.

Kingfisher and DGCA officials were unavailable for comment when contacted by AFP.

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