Kingfisher grounded for the winter as DGCA denies nod

Far from the good times promised by its eponymous beer brand, there seems to be no end to the tough times for Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has finalised its winter schedule, in which there is no departure slot allocated to Kingfisher, which had sought 550 flights a week.

At the same time, there seems to be no end in sight to the impasse between the airline's management and its striking workers, which has seen the airline grounded for almost three weeks already.

Yet another meeting of pilots and engineers - who are on strike because they have been unpaid for almost seven months now – with the management in Mumbai failed on Tuesday, after which chief executive Sanjay Agarwal announced that the lockout declared on 1 October would be extended.

Reportedly the management offered one month's salary immediately with the rest to be paid later, but the employees rejected the offer. Fed up of frequent unkept promises, they are demanding at least four months' payment before they resume work.

As usual, the management continues to sound upbeat in the face of all evidence. "Talks have been positive. We are moving in the right direction. We will have to extend the deadline to restart operations," Agarwal said after the meeting. There will be another round of talks with employees next Monday.

Kingfisher's hopes of ever getting airborne again are waning by the day. It will have to convince the DGCA that it has a viable plan before it will be allowed to fly again. There are even disquietening murmurs from aviation minister Ajit Singh as well as DGCA about cancelling the airline's licence.

The DGCA in the past three years has suspended licences of two other almost stillborn airlines - MDLR and Paramount Airlines – because it felt they were unfit to fly. A similar fate looms large for Kingfisher.