Kingfisher Airlines will end flying from London within days and could cease operations all together as the Indian government appears near to withdrawing the carrier’s licence.
The head of India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation summoned Kingfisher Airlines chairman Vijay Mallya to a meeting today (Tuesday), saying no decision on whether to revoke Kingfisher’s licence had been made in advance.
Kingfisher has been struggling against going into administration since the turn of the year, with debts close to £900 million and having never turned a profit. The Indian regulator served a 15-day notice of possible suspension last month.
Kingfisher’s latest survival plan involves cutting its fleet to 16 aircraft. It previously operated 64. The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation reported Kingfisher plans to withdraw from London possibly as early as Sunday (March 25).
The airline continues to offer direct flights between Heathrow and Delhi, but has ceased direct flights to Mumbai after returning an aircraft to its leasing company last week. Kingfisher continues to offer services to Mumbai via Delhi.
A revised summer schedule suggests Kingfisher will cease operating from Heathrow on April 10. The carrier has yet to reply to questions from Travel Weekly about its London operation.
Kingfisher had some good news yesterday when a tax tribunal ruled in its favour and ordered India’s Income Tax Department to lift a freeze on the carrier’s accounts imposed for non-payment of taxes.
The freeze led to Kingfisher’s suspension from airline association IATA’s billing and settlement plan (BSP) last week.
Kingfisher confirmed the resignation of the last of four independent directors from its board on Saturday, leaving the airline technically in breach of company regulations.
The one hope for the carrier appears to be that the Indian government moves rapidly to permit sizeable foreign investment in Indian airlines.
The Financial Times quoted an unnamed industry analyst saying: “The airline should have been dead months ago, but with Kingfisher all logic gets torn to shreds. The reason it survives is because Mallya has a lot of political supports.”
However, reports in India suggest Mallya, the billionaire head of Kingfisher and of drinks empire United Breweries Group, might welcome a way out of the industry.