Unpaid Kingfisher pilots start reporting 'sick'; 17 flights cancelled

Compounding air passengers' woes, Kingfisher pilots in Delhi started emulating their counterparts in national carrier Air India by calling in 'sick'. Kingfisher has already cancelled 17 flights today.

The figure will probably rise as Mumbai-based Kingfisher pilots have decided to join the protest tonight.

Kingfisher pilots are protesting against the fact that their salaries have not been paid since January despite management assurances. The desperately cash-strapped airline, owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, has been struggling to stay aloft under a heavy debt burden. In the fiscal year ended March, it declared losses of Rs1,027 crore.

After earlier meetings with pilots at his residence, Mallya on 5 May wrote to employees promising that January salaries would be paid starting Wednesday this week. "It is my personal endeavour to not only clear the January salaries, but also clear a significant part of the February salaries by the end of this month itself," Mallya wrote.

However, like his earlier promises to the staff, this too has not been fulfilled.

Kingfisher pilots, air crew and other employees had earlier threatened a stir in late March over non-payment of salaries; but the stir was withdrawn on 3 April after Mallya assured them of early salary payments.