Mon, Feb 20, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Kingfisher cuts flights after losses


Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, the Indian carrier controlled by billionaire Vijay Mallya, cut more services as it struggles with a cash shortage and wider losses.

As many as 32 flights a day have been canceled since Friday because of disruptions including bird hits, the Bangalore-based company said in an e-mailed statement on Saturday night. The carrier will resume full operation of its 240 scheduled flights within four days, it said.

Kingfisher reduced operations as it seeks to raise funds from banks and investors after India’s jet fuel costs and a price war pushed the airline to a larger third-quarter loss. In November last year, the carrier reduced daily flights from 340 to 300, ended its budget services and deferred plane deliveries.

“New investors in Kingfisher have not yet materialized,” said Binit Somaia, a Sydney-based director at CAPA Centre for Aviation, an industry consultant. “A serious investor would only enter after having carefully understood the risks associated with the transaction.”

Kingfisher, whose market share slipped from second in October last year to fifth in December, grounded 12 of its existing 27 Avions de Transport Regional planes and delayed Airbus SAS A380 deliveries beyond 2016. ATR, a maker of turboprop aircraft, said last month it canceled a 38-plane order from Kingfisher after the carrier missed payments.

The airline has pledged its brand, office furniture and other assets against a debt of about US$1.3 billion. Kingfisher said on Jan. 19 that it is in talks with potential investors including SC Lowy Financial Services.

Jet Airways (India) Ltd, the nation’s biggest carrier, and discount airline SpiceJet Ltd also posted third-quarter losses, as higher jet fuel costs eroded gains from carrying more passengers.

India may soon allow airlines to directly import jet kerosene, thereby saving on local sales taxes that are as high as 30 percent, the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a statement on Thursday. The government is also about to let foreign carriers buy stakes in local operators.

In November last year, the heads of Indian carriers met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as they sought the government’s assistance to stem industry losses. The nation’s airlines will probably lose US$2.5 billion in the year ending next month, according to CAPA.

Kingfisher had a fleet of 64 planes ranging from ATR turboprops to Airbus A330s as of Dec. 31, according to a company statement on Wednesday.

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