MUMBAI, India – With salary payments delayed again, a section of Kingfisher Airlines pilots and engineers stayed off work on Wednesday, forcing the airline to cancel 26 flights across the country, including four from the city.
“The protest was over the delay in payment of salaries for the month of March,” said an airline source. “By evening, some pilots were of the opinion that they should continue flying till August 13, as the management promised them on Wednesday that salary disbursement for March will begin on that date,” he added.
The airline’s pilots are not unionized, and decisions regarding protests are largely taken individually by pilots after consultation with each other, the source said. The airline’s spokesperson was not available for comment. This is the fourth time since February that the airline’s staffers have refused to report to work.
According to officials at the Mumbai airport, Kingfisher is operating 19 daily flights from Mumbai, of which eight are to Delhi. On Wednesday, it cancelled four flights. Of these, three were scheduled for Delhi and one for Chennai. At Mumbai airport, the Kingfisher booking counter bore a deserted look on Wednesday. With a passenger load factor of only 73% in May and 62% in June, Kingfisher is one of the two carriers (Air India being the other one) with the lowest percentage of occupied seats on its flights.
“The airline’s (Kingfisher) flights were going half-empty,” said an airline staffer at the airport. A 35-year-old media professional paid Rs 3,000 extra for an air ticket to Delhi after his Kingfisher flight was cancelled. “I need to reach Delhi urgently today. I have no option but to buy a new ticket at the spot-booking rate,” he said. Many other passengers asked their travel agents to book new tickets.