Some relief for fliers as Kingfisher pilots end 'sick' stir

Pilots of the debt-crippled Kingfisher Airlines returned to flight duty on Friday, after an assurance from the airline's chairman and managing director Vijay Mallya that their salaries would be paid by next Tuesday.

Kingfisher pilots had taken the usual route of protest by calling in 'sick' en masse since Wednesday. However in contrast to the pilots of national carrier Air India, who have been on a similar mass sick leave since Monday evening, the Kingfisher pilots resumed duties after Mallya's assurance.

Between Thursday and Friday, the airline was forced to cancel about 29 flights from Mumbai, Delhi, and north India in general.

The cash-strapped airline is now operating on just around 16 aircraft, from a peak of 64 in 2009. The pilots' stir threatened even these skeletal operations. Coming on top of the IA stir, it had seriously disrupted the schedules of passengers. Both airlines' bottomlines have been hit as summer is the peak season for Indians holidaying abroad.

The Kingfisher management has once again assured the employees of paying the long overdue January salaries by 15 May. Part-payment of February dues would follow soon, Mallya assured the staff.

Kingfisher had started paying its ground staff and cabin crew on Tuesday; but the senior pilots are still awaiting their dues.