Even as State Bank of India is reportedly willing to provide a Rs. 1200-crore relief package to Kingfisher Airlines, the private carrier on Wednesday filed a fresh flight schedule with the aviation regulator Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), bringing down its operations to about 170 daily flights with 28 functional aircraft.
Kingfisher Airlines informed the DGCA that it would operate flights in accordance with the revised schedule which was being examined by the regulator. On the sixth day of disruption in its flight schedule, Kingfisher cancelled over 30 flights on Wednesday, leaving its customers to fend for themselves.
As reports about the State Bank of India suddenly having a change of heart and extending help to Vijay Mallya's crisis-ridden airline came, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh made it clear that the government would not give any bailout package to the private carrier.
``We have made it clear and I am sure that Mr. Mallya knows that Air India is a government concern. Whatever help we give them (Air India), we cannot do it to any private industry. We have said it before that banks will decide that (giving money), Government is not going to interfere in it. Banks have to follow Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guideline. They have to worry about their non-performing assets. They have to decide on the basis of the business plan of the company,'' Mr. Singh said.
However, SBI Chairman Pratip Chaudhuri refused to comment on the reports that SBI was ready to help Kingfisher Airlines, citing reasons of client confidentiality. SBI has the maximum exposure to the troubled airline at Rs. 1400 crore.
The airline's consortium of lenders, including SBI, have been examining a debt-restructuring proposal also. Kingfisher's current debt stands at Rs. 7,057.08 crore and it is learnt to have requested the consortium of lenders for a working capital support of Rs. 200 to 300 crore. The airline's bank accounts have also been frozen for non-payment of taxes. The carrier has suffered a loss of Rs. 1,027 crore in 2010-11.
In another development, the Government on Wednesday issued the notification allowing private airlines to import aviation jet fuel directly, bowing to the demand of the cash-starved aviation industry.
Airline companies, interested in importing the aviation turbine fuel (ATF), instead of buying from local refiners, would have to apply to the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) for an import licence, according to an official statement here. The notification said ATF imports have been allowed by or on behalf of Indian carriers on actual use basis.
Kingfisher has been seeking permission for direct import of aviation jet fuel so that it does not have to cough up high sales tax rate that go up to 30 per cent in some States. Jet fuel that constitutes about 40 per cent of an airline's operating expenses costs the most in India. Though the infrastructure for supply of directly imported ATF is not there, the Government has given a green signal to it.