New Delhi: Indian aviation industry is facing a huge crisis with two major airlines staring at pilots going on strike, affecting flight schedules and throwing the travel plans of thousands of passengers into disarray. After several Air India pilots went on strike over differences with the management, it is the turn of cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines pilots to go on strike, protesting against non-payment of their salaries for the past few months.
Several Kingfisher pilots have taken sick leave and not reported for work on Thursday. The Kingfisher pilots decided to go on strike from Tuesday night due to delay in the payment of their salaries. All the Kingfisher pilots in Delhi have decided not to fly from Thursday night.
Sources say almost 80 per cent of the 90 Pilots based in north India are not operating any flights. They are also in talks with pilots in Mumbai to try and convince them not to fly. Kingfisher management pilots are operating most of the flights.
Kingfisher Airlines Chairman Vijay Mallya had promised on Monday to pay the employees their salaries and other dues from Wednesday. Mallya had made the assurance after some of the employees threatened to drag the airline management to the Labour court over non-payment of salaries.
Mallya's communication to the employees comes following the airline's pilots serving a deadline of May 8 to the management for paying January salaries or face strike. Besides, they had demanded that the management should also clear the remaining salary in a phased manner by June 30.
A section of the staff, including pilots and engineers, had last week said that they were contemplating to move to the Labour court to seek its intervention and expedite settlement of their dues.
Kingfisher Airlines has been facing financial troubles for almost a year now. The airline, which never made a profit since its inception in May 2005, reported a net loss of Rs 444.26 crore in the December quarter. It suffered a loss of Rs 1,027 crore in 2010-11 and has a debt of Rs 7,057.08 crore.
Due to the paucity of funds, it now operates only 110 flights a day with a fleet of 20 aircraft against 400 flights per day in 2011 with 66 planes.
The airline had a 6.4 per cent market share in March, and ranked below the budget carrier GoAir, which cornered 7.5 per cent market share in the same period.
(With additional information from PTI)