Kingfisher suspends operations in several cities

New Delhi: Beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines on Tuesday announced temporary suspension of operations from several cities and asked an undisclosed number of staff to stay at home till the time it gets fresh infusion of funds.

Faced with a cash crunch resulting in several employees not getting salaries and dues for over three months, the airline also did not rule out a lay off saying all this would depend on various decisions to be taken by the government and its bankers about funding and other issues.

Going in for a "holding plan" pending re-capitalisation, it said, "there are several stations to which operations have been temporarily suspended". "Since we could resume operations after getting re- capitalised, most staff at these stations have been asked to stay at home whilst remaining on the Company`s rolls," an airline spokesperson said.

However, he did not disclose the number of such staff or that of the stations from where operations have been suspended.

On speculation about lay offs, he said "we are in a `holding` pattern right now and are waiting for various decisions from the Government and our consortium of bankers on FDI policy, working capital funding, etc. All of these will have a major impact on the staffing decisions we will have to make."

A consortium of 13 PSU banks, including State Bank of India, have an exposure of Rs 5,608.07 crore to Kingfisher as on February this year. Kingfisher has a debt of over Rs 7,000 crore.

The airline said it has begun this year`s summer schedule by operating approximately 120 daily flights with 20 dedicated aircraft." Kingfisher was flying 28 planes and 140 flights in the 2011-12 curtailed winter schedule against the proposed 400 daily flights with 64 aircraft for this period.

The airline "would dearly like to retain our staff who have remained incredibly dedicated and loyal under extremely trying circumstances. Our immediate priority is to access our funds to pay outstanding staff salaries," the spokesperson said.

While formulating the `holding plan`, he said Kingfisher had taken "adequate care to ensure that part of our core inter-metro schedule is retained, while connectivity is maintained to many cities where we are the sole operator. This is to ensure that public interest is not compromised."

Regarding the stations which would be shut down, he said skeletal staff would be present at such airports to assist passengers who have booked to fly by Kingfisher. "Our staff will assist them in re-booking their travel or processing refunds."

The airline also announced it had paid Rs 44 crore towards TDS dues, which was due on or before March 27, as directed by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in Bangalore.

"Our keen intent is to get re-capitalised and to bounce back as a major player in civil aviation …. We will also protect the interests of all stakeholders, suppliers and service providers as an integral part of our recapitalization plans," the spokesperson said.

He said aviation regulator DGCA was "monitoring our safety standards on a constant basis" and added that the airline was trying to "ensure that we maintain schedule integrity with 100 per cent reliability" in its flight schedule.