Kingfisher Loses Flying Rights and Airport Slots

 - March 4, 2013, 2:06 PM
In more optimistic times, Kingfisher CEO Vijay Mallya, left; Airbus COO for customers John Leahy, center; and former Indian aviation minister Praful Patel pose with a model of an A350 following the signing of a major order for several Airbus types during the 2007 Paris Air Show. (Photo: Airbus)

The withdrawal of Kingfisher Airlines’ domestic airport slots and international flying rights by India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation on February 25 could make a phased restart of the carrier even more challenging. Meanwhile, authorities have de-registered 13 of the 37 aircraft parked in India, but airports haven’t allowed lessors to claim their assets until Kingfisher pays pending dues totaling $72 million.

“[Kingfisher has] to give some guarantee [to pay],” said Airports Authority of India chairman V.P. Agrawal. “Bank checks worth $21 million…bounced. A legal issue is going on.”

Not permitting lessors to recover their aircraft contravenes the Cape Town Convention and India “could lose trust of lessors” that view it as a risk-averse market, Agrawal told AIN.

“We will soon meet with the ministry of civil aviation to take a decision [to let the airplanes go],” he said.

Rival carriers can claim Kingfisher’s withdrawn rights are due to “non-utilization” and they most covet those in Mumbai, said an airline official who did not want to be named. “Our priority is to distribute these rights to interested Indian carriers that want to operate on these sectors,” minister of civil aviation Ajit Singh said. Authorities have also withdrawn Kingfisher’s parking slots at domestic airports.

Kingfisher came into being before the launch of budget carriers SpiceJet, GoAir and IndiGo and had acquired 21 daily prime slots from Mumbai to Bangalore/Goa/Chennai. “Parking that is constrained in Mumbai and Pune because of the air force base is also attractive,” the airline official told AIN.

Kingfisher, which hasn’t operated in five months, offered around 3,500 seats a day on its international network. It operated seven weekly flights to London, 21 to Dubai, 21 to Bangkok, seven to Kathmandu, 14 to Dacca, 35 to Sri Lanka, 14 to Hong Kong and seven to Singapore. While most of the segments are available since Kingfisher flew so-called “me-too routes,” Dubai ranks as the most attractive, “though it is the Dubai airport that is constrained for slots,” said the official. Departure timings of Kingfisher’s international flights represent an added attraction for those looking for slots, such as Jet Airways, which is expected to sign a deal with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad.