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Half of Kingfisher fleet sitting idle

Even as the debate rages over whether the government will help cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) battle a more than Rs 7,000 crore debt amid growing competition from nimble rivals, HT has learnt that nearly half of the airline’s fleet of 66 aircraft is grounded due to maintenance issues and issues with lessors.

Top company sources told HT, “Twenty-seven aircraft are stranded at airports at present. The financial situation is so bad that an aircraft had to be grounded as the tyres needed to be changed.”

Kingfisher, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, was not operating 35% of its slots. The airline did not respond to an email questionnaire from HT.

A statement by its CEO Sanjay Aggarwal said they would offer 300 daily flights cutting down from the previous 340. He denied the airline had made a bailout appeal to the government.

“We have only asked our banks for an increase in limits,” he said.

KFA is the second largest airline by number of passengers, but hasn’t made profits since its inception in 2005. It has accumulated losses of more than Rs 4,300 crore till March 2011.

Civil aviation minister Vayalar Ravi said he had spoke to the finance ministry to tell banks to lend to Kingfisher but banks had to take a call on it.

“I have also spoken to the oil minister to extend credit to Kingfisher,” he said.

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