In a big setback to the ailing Kingfisher Airlines, which may end its revival plans, the government on Monday withdrew all its domestic and international traffic rights. These slots will be given to other airlines.
According to an official release, Minister of Civil Aviation Ajit Singh has decided to withdraw all international bilateral traffic rights allocated to Kingfisher Airlines with immediate effect.
Flying or airport slots are rights allocated to a scheduled airline by an airport operator or government agency, granting the slot owner the right to schedule a landing or departure during a specific time period. There was no immediate reaction from the airlines.
Under these rights, the Vijay Mallya-led carrier was allowed to fly to eight countries making up 25,000 seats per week. Kingfisher was operating to Bangladesh (14 services per week), Hong Kong (14), Nepal (seven), Singapore (seven), Sri Lanka (14 services per week and 21 services per week from unlimited 18 destinations), Thailand (21), Dubai (21) and the UK (7 services per week each from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore). These traffic rights were allocated to Kingfisher Airlines between the year 2008 and 2011.
These international traffic rights have been withdrawn from the carrier on account of non-utilisation of slots. “The minister has decided to make these international traffic rights available to other carriers for use. This would give additional availability of about 25,000 seats per week for use by other Indian carriers to these eight countries, some of which are much in demand from these carriers,” the release added.
“Similarly it has also been decided to withdraw the domestic slots which were allocated to Kingfisher at different airports for domestic flights. Airports Authority of India has been directed to make these slots available to other domestic carriers as per their demand,” the release said.
In October last year, the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had temporarily suspended the Scheduled Operator Permit (SOP) or flying permit of the carrier following a strike by its pilots and engineers over non-payment of salaries for several months that completely grounded its fleet.
The SOP then expired on December 31. A week before this, the beleaguered airline submitted an interim revival plan to the aviation regulator to resume limited operations.
But the DGCA was not happy with the plan. It sought more information on the funding and payment of dues and decided not to allow the airlines to take to air till it met a series of conditions, including payment of dues to its employees and various service providers like airport operators.
Failing to provide any credible input, Kingfisher's lenders—a consortium of banks—also decided earlier this month to start the process of recovering Rs 7,500 crore outstanding loans from the grounded airline.