Kingfisher seeks time from Airports Authority to pay dues

Kingfisher seeks time from Airports Authority to pay dues

Hyderabad / Bangalore: Loss-making Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, India’s second largest airline by passengers carried, has requested state-run airports regulator Airports Authority of India, or AAI, to allow it to defer payment of at least Rs200 crore its owes for use of the airports that the government body runs.

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Airlines have to pay landing, parking and navigational charges, besides fees for other services while using airports and usually the payments are made within a grace period related to the bank guarantees furnished by the airline. With losses mounting on account of high aviation fuel prices and falling passenger volumes, some airlines have begun delaying payments this year.

A senior government official at the Hyderabad air show, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said payments from Kingfisher stopped coming to AAI about three months ago.

Late on Wednesday, Kingfisher chairman Vijay Mallya met senior AAI officials at the Kingfisher Airlines chalet built here to showcase the company’s new Airbus A330.

The nearly 30-minute meeting, however, did not yield any outcome, the official said. While it was not unusual that airlines exceed the 30-day credit period for such payments by a few days, no other airline has such an amount left to be repaid. Mallya, this official said, has sought to pay in tranches over a period of time.

AAI is yet to decide on the request. “We will be left with no option but to tell them to go for cash and carry model if the payments are not made," he said, referring to immediate payments on use of airports.

Kingfisher executive vice-president Hitesh Patel said all domestic airlines owe payments to AAI. “The bottom line is that the government should come up with a bailout package for the airlines."

Kingfisher has at least 400 daily flights in India on its 85-aircraft fleet. Having lost nearly Rs1,000 crore this fiscal, it has put its overseas launch on hold and, earlier this week, forged an alliance with rival Jet Airways (India) Ltd to share passengers, routes, ground staff, fuel purchase and infrastructure facilities.

Separately, the airline firm said the low-cost carrier business it acquired from Deccan Aviation Ltd, now operated as Kingfisher Red, reduced losses by a quarter to Rs188 crore for the nine months to March, benefiting from a tax write-back of Rs505 crore.

Revenue for the period dropped 5.3% to Rs1,545.5 crore, on lower revenues from transfer of aircraft or purchase rights. The firm reported losses of Rs246.7 crore on revenue of Rs1,628 crore for the nine months to March 2007, said a Kingfisher statement.

The firm changed its accounting year-end to March from the earlier year-end of June that was followed by Deccan Aviation, and did not disclose numbers for the merged entity that came into being after end-March.

“We had projected to be profitable in the later half of fiscal 2010. Now, with the Jet alliance it will be much earlier," Mallya said on Wednesday. Jet Airways rose 0.39% or Rs1.05 to Rs268.50 on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Thursday. Kingfisher Airlines remained flat at Rs44.35.

P.R. Sanjai contributed to this story.