Kingfisher: King of good times caught in bad weather?

edmond fernandes | February 21, 2012



The agony of Kingfisher Airlines is now palpable. With continuing reports of flights being cancelled, the frustration is passing onto the passengers and staff at Kingfisher Airlines. In less than six years, Kingfisher has already accumulated a debt of over Rs 7,500 crore which only increases with each passing hour. Having observed this fact, what is a matter of grave concern is that, the staff at Kingfisher among the ground crew and some of those involved in airline operations haven’t even received their salaries in three months.

For those who thrived on their monthly salaries, today uncertainty is the only certainty. They work honestly every day and return home dejected and depressed, robbed of their freedom and tied at the tongue.

How long can those in authority continue to sleep?

Lavish lives with flashy operations, extravagant purchases and costly acquisition have together made it a loss-making entity. The staff faces the brunt and Kingfisher seems to have no worries at all.

Recently I travelled to Delhi on a Kingfisher flight. Initially the flight was scheduled at 2000 hours. Later it was delayed and then re-scheduled for 2045 hours, which later became 2200 hours. Finally it left at 2315 hours from Bangalore and reached Delhi after 2hours 40 minutes. What a mess! I can’t blame the poor air crew, but in spite of all this, they didn’t lose their cool and served with a smile without any complaints. The anguish was understandable among passengers because most of them have business and commitments and such harassing delays are not acceptable. But what nobody realises is that we demand everything from those at work in Kingfisher, without realising that they are working for free.

Is Kingfisher running some charity project? Its auditors have cast doubts on its survival as a growing concern and stock analyst have warned of an impending bankruptcy. If we are to compare the private flyer with India’s national carrier Air India, both are in competition.  It’s just that Air India had faulty decision-making and inexplicable giveaways that brought the national carrier to the cutting-edge of ruin.

But Air India continues to be under ICU monitoring with ventilator support as the government keeps the saline drips going with finance since it has to save face. While Air India has no one to speak for, Kingfisher has an extremely well-connected chairman who is also running Force India and having a cricket team to boot besides being a member of parliament. Can he for a moment feel the pain of working for three months without even being paid a single penny and only continue to receive abuses from passengers for flight delays, cancellations and much more? The situation is very grave and if nothing can be done, at least pay the wages of the staff and let Kingfisher rest in peace forever.

There may still be some promises and fuel left in the airlines, but if the pumping pipes are chocked and servicing and oiling does not really help, I think it’s time the curtains are pulled down.

The fact of the matter is that in the end power and image matter in India. So no one questions Kingfisher’s flashy boss while its staff continues to rot on the sidelines. These are also serious lessons for other private airlines to think over and work smartly. After all, it’s because of the staff and the customers that they continue to still float in troubled waters.

(The author is a final-year MBBS student and independent journalist. He can be reached at edmondvirgo@gmail.com)

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