Or maybe not…
Our regular readers know that this Indian airline has been on our “be very cautious list” for a long time. Indian aviation has been struggling terribly but this airline, and its flamboyant boss, seem to have struggled more than most. It is bad enough delaying staff salaries (a common trick at Air India as well) and being so late paying for fuel they have had to pay at the airport before an aircraft can be refuelled (ditto Air India) but they have also had problems keeping all their aircraft. We know that some very large orders had to be cancelled or rescheduled at the last minute because of new “strategic plans” (otherwise known as inability to raise the finance) but we now hear a strong rumour that the airline has up to nineteen aircraft grounded throughout India because of a shortage of serviceable engines.
What has happened to all the spare engines that Kingfisher (as any normal airline) would have had?
Whilst we cannot be sure of the full details, it looks as if leasing companies are playing tough with Kingfisher again.
We will try to find the full story for a future edition of Inside Traveller but our advice remains to avoid Kingfisher and Air India.
Yesterday, a group of Air India pilots staged a silent protest at Mumbai Airport to highlight the late payment of their salaries.
This is not a new issue. Air India and Kingfisher Airlines have frequently delayed monthly payments to staff – sometimes with advance notice and sometimes without. They have also held on to various extra allowances so some staff have only been paid their basic salary for several months.
It seems to us a very basic rule that if an airline cannot afford to pay its staff, it should not be flying. As a passenger, you are bound to wonder what else the airline cannot pay for. You do not want to pay the normal fare only to feel the staff are working out of charity for the airline.
India is very proud of its new reputation as an economic powerhouse. It is time the government (the ultimate owner of Air India) took its role seriously and cleaned up the airlines. That might mean the re-capitalisation of Air India and a forced merger of Kingfisher with the more professional Jet (with the Kingfisher management being shown the door).
At the moment, we strongly advise against flying with any Indian airline.
Kingfisher, the private Indian airline, has received a number of awards for the high standard of its in-flight service. The positive impression has been boosted by non-stop PR from the company’s “charismatic” chairman. Unfortunately, the new airline started at a very bad time and is far from being a financial success. It has owed large sums to fuel suppliers and has had a number of run-ins with aircraft leasing companies. The company is part of the UB Group (the company behind Kingfisher beer and other drinks).
Early in July the company announced the next stage of its rapid international expansion including new aircraft and new routes from September to Hong Kong and Singapore. The airline has also applied to fly from Delhi to London. A few days later, it wrote to employees to say that due to the problems in the worldwide aviation market, they would have to delay salary payments by a few days but that all staff would be paid by the 7th of the month.
To be fair, Air India have also delayed payments to staff but that company is state-owned and it is hard to see the state letting the company go under completely. Air India is also hard at work on measures to restore financial stability to the company.
With Kingfisher. the non-stop international expansion gets the publicity in the foreign press, whilst the fact that staff are being paid late is left unreported. Maybe the airline will go on to be a huge success but it does not seem right that an airline can fly new routes when it can’t even pay its staff on time.