Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kingfisher Airlines blames bird strikes for disruptions, probe ordered

India's aviation watchdog on Sunday ordered an inquiry into the flight cancellations by Kingfisher Airlines which stranded thousands of passengers throughout the country, even as the carrier attributed the disruptions to unavoidable circumstances like bird hits.

"We have called for the cancellation data from all over the country. They (Kingfisher Airline) did not inform us of any cancellation plans," EK Bharat Bhusan, director general of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), told IANS.

"This is unprecedented act which has led us to take this step (investigation)."

According to officials at DGCA, the airline has violated rule 140 section A of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 by not seeking the prior approval of the regulator before curtailing its schedule and has already violated civil aviation requirements (CAR) regulations which ensures compensation to the passengers in case of denied boarding, cancellations and delays.

Last year, the DGCA had warned the airlines on flight cancellations and said that it is monitoring the flight operations of all airlines on the respective slots allotted to them.

The beleaguered privately-run Kingfisher on Sunday declared that despite flight disruptions in the past couple of days, it has not shut down any stations from its schedule.

In a statement in Mumbai, a spokesperson for the airlines said the flight disruptions were owing to certain unexpected incidents like bird hits which rendered its aircraft out of service.

The flight disruptions are expected to continue for another three to four days with only 208 flights in operation, but the carrier has not shut down, nor does it plan to close down any stations, the official said.

"The speculation that we are reducing our operating schedule from 240 flights a day is ill-founded, as we will operate the full schedule on our booking system within the next four days," the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson dismissed rumours that the KFA had resorted to selling tickets at low fares as "illogical", since the airline focuses on the full service segment which affords higher yields.

Admitting that its bank accounts have been attached by the Income Tax Department, KFA said in the past also, similar issues have happened and they have been resolved.

"We have had a good meeting with our consortium of banks who have accepted, in principle, the viability study prepared by SBI Capital Markets and independent consultants. Our request for additional working capital has been acknowledged by the consortium and is subject to individual bank approvals," the spokesperson said.

The developments came barely two days after high fuel costs and falling revenue resulted in KFA losses in the third quarter of the current fiscal -- mounting to Rs 444 crore from a net loss of Rs 254 crore in the like quarter of 2010-11.

The development also comes after the airlines accounts were seized by the income tax authorities - the second time that the accounts of the cash-strapped airlines was frozen.

The airline owes state-run banks about Rs 6,901.86 crore and has a total debt of Rs 7,000 crore. The airline has not posted any profit since its launch five years ago.

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