Kingfisher curtails ‘bleeding’ overseas widebody operations

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India's Kingfisher Airlines has reduced its overseas widebody operations, returning an Airbus A330-200 aircraft to a lessor, and has called on India to approve higher foreign direct investment levels for domestic airlines.

The beleaguered carrier listed the moves in a broad ranging 18-point media release. The release outlined efforts to rectify its challenging commercial position and also attempts to reassure passengers that it will operate as many flights as possible.

It notes that on 13 March, Kingfisher operated 101 flights, and that it aims to operate the same number on 14 March. It provides no projection for subsequent days.

"Our prime mission is to maintain schedule integrity by predicting in advance what we can with the sole objective of minimising, if not eliminating, guest inconvenience," says Kingfisher.

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The carrier also confirms that it is "curtailing" overseas widebody flights, which it says are "bleeding heavily". The carrier has an extensive overseas route network, serving destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific.

"To this end we have already returned one Airbus A330-200 to the lessor in the UK," it says. "Positive and immediate action is being taken on all fronts to cut costs."

At the time of publication, Kingfisher was unable to provide details about the aircraft it plans to return. According to Flightglobal Pro, Kingfisher has five leased A330-200 aircraft.

Of these, two are leased from Ireland-based Pembroke Group, a unit of Standard Chartered, and three from Dubai-based DAE Capital. The registration of the two A330s leased from Pembroke are VT-VJL and VT-VJN.

The statement also touched on Kingfisher's financial difficulties, noting the impact of the suspension of its IATA Clearing House (ICH) and Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) accounts, stemming from action by India's tax authorities.

"We request one and all to appreciate the serious handicaps we face not only because of our frozen accounts but because of the operating environment," says Kingfisher. "We are working hard to resolve the issues that confront us given the current environment. We continue to work with the tax authorities to arrive at a solution to de-freeze our accounts as early as possible."

Meanwhile, it is working with its bankers to raise "urgent interim working capital" and said approval of these funds would not be contingent on State Bank of India approval.

The airline also awaits the government's final verdict on investments by foreign airlines, with the current foreign direct investment level capped at 49%.

"We can confirm that there is interest from prospectives on this basis," says Kingfisher.