Kingfisher aircraft impounded at Heathrow

Struggling Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines had an aircraft impounded at Heathrow last night after British Airways suspended its code-share agreement yesterday.

The heavily-indebted Kingfisher has been operating a reduced service and cancelling many flights.

A Heathrow spokesman confirmed this morning that a Kingfisher aircraft was impounded at the airport last night following a court order.

Referring to BA’s decision to end its code-share agreeement, the UK carrier’s regional commercial manager for South Asia Chris Fordyce said customers booked on Kingfisher flights that are still operating would be unaffected.

“Customers booked on cancelled services will be able to rebook to an alternate service where available or claim a full refund,” he said.

The BA code appeared on 11 Kingfisher domestic services and one route to Sri Lanka.

Airline association IATA has suspended Kingfisher for non-payment of dues and UK agents are advising clients booked to fly on Kingfisher in coming weeks to rebook with other airlines.

Kingfisher chairman Vijay Mallya admitted the carrier was struggling to maintain even a reduced service as pilots and other staff refuse to work without payment.

Mallya said: “We are doing the best we can under the circumstances.” The carrier reported operating 145 of 200 planned flights on Monday having previously cut its schedule by more than half.

The Indian finance ministry said it had no plans to extend fresh loans to the airline, which has a debt approaching £900 million. The State Bank of India is owed about £175 million.

It has been reported in India that BA parent IAG and Etihad Airways might take stakes in the carrier. However, the level of Kingfisher’s debt and restrictions on the size of stakes may rule this out, although IAG has previously identified Kingfisher as a potential target.

The Indian carrier had been due to join BA’s Oneworld alliance this month.

Mallya has said the airline needs an immediate cash injection of £160 million to survive. The Kingfisher chairman also heads India’s United Breweries and has said is considering selling part of the liquor group to raise cash.

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