New Delhi: India’s second largest carrier by passengers flown, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd has postponed plans to start flights to Hong Kong and Singapore from Mumbai this week, and is refunding customers or transferring them to other airlines.
Despite an economic slowdown and slowing passenger demand, the airline run by liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya had planned to launch a daily flight to Hong Kong starting on Monday and to Singapore on Friday, as part of its overseas expansion plan.
“Kingfisher will not start operating at Hong Kong International Airport on 12 January,” said Cathy Cheung, a spokeswoman for the Airport Authority Hong Kong, without giving details. The airline earlier this month pulled the flights off the ticketing system, said an executive at an online travel portal who did not want to be named. “They have postponed them indefinitely without giving any reason,” the executive said.
The airline, which had started taking Hong Kong and Singapore flight booking in December, is refunding passengers or transferring them to other flights. Kingfisher Airlines flies to London from Bangalore and Mumbai using up to three of the five wide-body Airbus SAS-made A330 aircraft that it took delivery of last year. At least two other A330 aircraft grounded at Mumbai and Bangalore airports since late last year would have been put to use with the addition of the two new international routes.
A Kingfisher Airlines executive, who didn’t want to be named, said the airline may finally launch flights on those routes in mid-February after its flights using Airbus A320 planes to Dubai and Colombo take off. One reason for the delay was a glitch in the in-flight entertainment system, this executive said.
Singapore’s Changi Airport said it could not confirm any dates for Kingfisher’s flights yet. “We are always in discussion with prospective airlines,” said Constanze Chia, spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, “and we will announce the commencement of new airlines at Changi Airport at the appropriate time when plans are finalized.” Flights from Chennai and Bangalore to Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, are expected to start on 19 January and the Bangalore-Dubai flight from 8 February, Mint reported earlier. Kingfisher Airlines operates about 442 flights a day with a fleet of 87 aircraft.
Given the high lease rentals for the wide-body A330 aircraft, the airline has little choice but to fly them, said an analyst. Each Airbus A330 costs around $10 million (Rs48.6 crore) in annual lease rental. “The three aircraft they have on ground will be utilized; perhaps sooner. You cannot afford to keep three A330s on ground,” said Kapil Kaul, India head for the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.