Cash-strapped Indian carrier, Kingfisher Airlines cancelled more flights on Thursday. Problems for the airline continue as airport operators put pressure to clear unpaid dues. Unverified reports say over 100 staff pilots have quit in the past few weeks.

Kingfisher Airlines cancelled more than 30 flights for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday.

Over the last few days, the Indian airline has grounded over 120 flights, causing severe inconvenience to travellers at airports all over the country.

Sources in the aviation industry said 30-odd pilots and cabin crew have not reported for duty in the past few days on grounds of health , but unconfirmed reports say that nearly 100 pilots had quit the airline recently.

The carrier’s flight operations have also been impacted with three oil companies – HPCL, IOC and BPCL – ceasing granting credit to it for lifting jet fuel and putting it on a cash-and-carry payment mode.

Vijay Mallya-owned Kingfisher is yet to reply to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)’s show-cause notice as to why the airline had not taken the regulator’s prior approval to restrict its flight schedule.

The DGCA has also asked Kingfisher to give details regarding steps that have been taken by the airline to take care of the passengers who were booked on the flights that were grounded. The facilitation of travellers includes airfare refunds, alternate flights or providing passengers with alternate modes of transportation.

Industry sources said that carrier has grounded eight of its leased turboprop ATR aircraft. Airport operators and other agencies are also putting pressure on the cash-strapped airline to clear unpaid dues.

The airline had said in a statement: “For a limited period, these flights are either being cancelled or clubbed with other Kingfisher flights in a well-controlled and pre-determined manner.

“In continuation of our earlier announcement to focus on the full-service market, KFA has initiated reconfiguration of its aircraft,” it went on.

Sanjay Aggarwal, Chief Executive Officer of Kingfisher Airlines was quoted in news portals as saying, “We decided to reduce frequency in some of the routes where we had multiple flights like Delhi-Mumbai or low passenger load like Nanded-Mysore.”

He said that the entire exercise was part of route rationalisation to ‘improve profitability’.

Mr Aggarwal further said, “We have explained that cancellations were temporary in nature because we have cancelled flights only up to 19th November. We are also rationalising our frequencies.”

Kingfisher, India‘s only 5 Star airline and world’s 6th, has not posted a profit ever since it was established in the year 2005. The quarterly net losses for the carrier have widened in excess of 40 percent on a year-on-year basis to 2.63 billion rupees ($54 million), the airline had reported in July.

Air Fares Surge

Kingfisher Airlines’ cancellation of flights on Thursday left travellers high and dry for the fourth consecutive day. The grounding has also resulted in soaring of air fares, making it difficult for passengers to find cheap flight tickets with Indian carriers.

Heaps of passengers across the country were greatly affected by the cancellation of flights, with some of the travellers paying a premium of 20%-40% to travel by other airlines. Many who booked cheap flight tickets with Kingfisher are now being forced to book new flights at much steeper rates with other carriers.

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