Kingfisher Airlines Chairman Vijay Mallya on Saturday said he was never out of reach of his striking employees during the 26-day impasse over non-payment of salaries since March this year and had played an active part in the wage settlement.
“We are here to enjoy Formula One, so let’s enjoy it. But I have always been available and whatever settlement has been reached (between the airline management and the employees) it’s because of my participation,” Mr. Mallya told reporters at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) here on the sidelines of Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix.
Later in a tweet, he said, “At the BIC FI circuit. Sahara Force India qualifying prospects are secondary. Even sports journos focus only on Kingfisher”.
The employees of the airline, who were on strike since September 29, agreed to resume work on the management’s promise to clear three months dues before Diwali.
To add to the beleaguered airline’s woes, the DGCA also suspended its flying permit because of abrupt cancellations and non-adherence to schedule. It also asked the airline to submit a revival plan and clear salary dues.
During the entire impasse, Mr. Mallya did not come in the forefront and the negotiations were carried out by top officials of the airline and the UB Group, leading employees to demand his presence.
The agitators had even threatened to stage protest at the BIC where his Formula One team, Sahara Force India, will be competing in Sunday’s second Indian GP.
“If they wanted to say something to me they could have come to my house. What is the point of coming here? There is no question of any disturbance or protest,” Mr. Mallya, who is also the team principal of Sahara Force India, said.
Often referred to as ‘King of Good Times’, Mr. Mallya also has slipped out of the billionaire league in the Forbes rich list, largely due to his cash-strapped aviation business whose net worth went below the USD one billion mark.
Kingfisher is saddled with a loss of Rs 8,000 crore and a debt burden of another over Rs 7,524 crore, a large part of which has not been serviced for several months.