Kingfisher cancels 12 flights

A strike similar to Air India's at Kingfisher Airlines, which began yesterday, has dealt a further blow to the financially crippled airline. At least 12 flights to and from Delhi have been cancelled as at least 72 Delhi and northern areas have reported 'sick' so far. It is expected that pilots from Mumbai will join the stir today.

On the face of it, the Kingfisher pilots' grouse seems more substantial than that of their AI counterparts – they say they have not been paid their salaries and other dues since January, although the airline's owner, liquor baron Vijay Mallya, had promised to clear these by 9 May.

Last night the airline reportedly began paying pending salaries to co-pilots and ground staff, but pilots have still not got their salaries and arrears.  Since Thursday morning, some pilots in Delhi have begun calling in sick. At least 17 Kingfisher flights to or from Delhi were cancelled yesterday.

Kingfisher chairman Mallya on Thursday wrote to employees threatening action against those going on strike.

In the letter, Mallya said he will ''act firmly and decisively" and that he will not allow a ''small group of misguided employees to derail and jeopardise operations'' and urged employees to ensure that the ''revised'' schedule is maintained. He added that ''salaries being credited'' to employees' bank accounts. He did not however mention whether senior pilots are included in these payments.

The airline is now reportedly operating only 14 aircraft, down from the 64 it was running at its peak till a couple of years ago.

The cash-strapped airline is struggling to stay aloft under a mounting load of debt. In the last fiscal year, the airline which has never shown a profit since its inception declared losses of Rs1,027 crore. Unlike state-owned Air India, the private airline cannot expect a government-funded bailout.