Kingfisher Airlines on Tuesday announced temporary suspension of its operations from the state capital, two days after it started cancelling all its flights from the city.
None of the Kingfisher flights operated from the Patna airport. A notice at the Kingfisher’s counter read: “IT 571 (Patna-Ranchi-Mumbai) and IT 3347 (Patna-Delhi) stands cancelled with effect from March 25, 2012.”
The Delhi flight had not been operating from November 20 last year.
Terming the temporary suspension of operations from Patna and several other cities as “holding plan”, an airline official said a few airline employees would be present at Patna airport to assist the passengers who booked their tickets earlier. They can opt for refund or fly with some other airline.
Besides Patna, the airline suspended operations from several major cities, including Calcutta and Hyderabad, and has asked nearly half of its 7,000-odd employees to stay at home till it managed to infuse fresh funds. Airline sources said the cash-strapped carrier, which used to fly to about 60 destinations, would now fly to less than 30 cities.
Prakash Mirpuri, vice-president, corporate communications, Kingfisher Airlines Limited, said: “In this ‘holding plan’ we have 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.”
Aviation experts claimed that the “holding plan” was an “indirect” way of declaring suspension of Kingfisher’s operation on the Patna sector.
“The Patna sector neither comes under the core inter-metro schedule, nor is it a city where Kingfisher is the sole operator. The Kingfisher’s counter at Patna airport is remaining closed after 2pm for the past few days,” said a source at the Patna airport.
The airport sources said the airline had stopped making advance monthly payments against parking, passenger facilitation and air navigation charges to the airport authority, hinting at permanent suspension of services from the state capital.
The suspension of Kingfisher flights would prick pockets of passengers on the Patna-Mumbai route.
“After the suspension of Kingfisher’s IT 571, GoAir and IndiGo airlines have hiked the fares on the Mumbai route,” said Raman Jha, the manager of Super Travels.
The airline, burdened by a debt of over Rs 7,000 crore, did not rule out laying off some employees saying a decision on the issue would depend on various decisions to be taken by the government and its bankers about funding and related issues. “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.
“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,” he added.
A Kingfisher employee posted at Patna airport said: “We have not received any official communication from the management, but salaries of most employees are pending since past two months. The speculation over layoff do concern us but we are hopeful that the company will bounce back.”
The Kingfisher began this year's summer schedule by operating approximately 120 daily flights with 20 dedicated aircraft. For the past two months, it was flying 28 planes and 140 flights as part of a curtailed winter schedule as against 400 daily flights with 64 aircraft it had proposed earlier.