India's Kingfisher extends fleet grounding as staff hold protest

Fri Oct 5, 2012 6:01am EDT
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By Tony Munroe and Anurag Kotoky

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Kingfisher Airlines Ltd (KING.NS: Quote) will ground its fleet for another week after failing to resolve an impasse with staff over salaries that have gone unpaid for seven months, deepening the crisis at what was once India's No.2 carrier.

The airline controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya has never turned a profit since its launch in 2005 and has been effectively shut since Monday after a weekend protest by members of staff turned violent.

On Friday, about 150 Kingfisher employees, following what police said was the suicide of the wife of a staff member, held a protest march from Mumbai's airport to the airline's office nearby, adding pressure for a resolution to the carrier's long-running financial problems.

"How can the management realistically expect us to work?" said Krishna Kumar, a 35-year-old engineer in Mumbai who joined Kingfisher six years ago.

"We have borne this for seven months," Kumar said, wearing a black armband.

Talks between airline management and Delhi-based pilots and engineers broke down on Thursday. Similar talks in Mumbai on Wednesday ended in what one senior pilot called a stalemate.

The airline was extending what it has described as a partial lock-out to October 12, "or up to such earlier date on which the said illegal strike is called off," spokesman Prakash Mirpuri said in a statement late on Thursday.

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), which estimates the airline has total debt of $2.49 billion, proposed in a report on Thursday that it voluntarily shut down in order to restructure.   Continued...