Hundreds of Kingfisher passengers were left stranded here and in major cities such as Chennai and Bangalore on Thursday evening when the airline cancelled several flights following stoppage of aviation fuel supply by the oil companies because their mounting dues had not been cleared by the airline.
At Delhi's IGI airport, Kingfisher had to cancel at least six flights as passengers complained of delays running into two to four hours. At Mumbai too, several flights were disrupted or delayed by three to four hours as harassed passengers were greeted with repeated announcements of lengthy delays of flights.
In Chennai, Kingfisher boarded harried passengers in order to avoid angry scenes at the terminal, only to offload them late at night. Passengers complained about the complete lack of information or assistance from airline authorities.
Kingfisher Airline, owned by the UB group of Vijay Mallya, has been put on “a cash-and-carry payment option” by oil companies for the past 10 months. It means that payments have to be cleared daily for fuel and no credit or tabs are allowed.
Kingfisher officials were not available for comment. However, sources in the oil companies expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved soon.
The private airline has been facing tough times in clearing dues of the oil companies which run into about Rs. 500 crore, aviation industry sources said. In July also, nearly a dozen flights of Kingfisher were grounded at the country's four major metro airports for hours after the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL) had refused to supply fuel due to non-payment of dues.
HPCL is the largest supplier of jet fuel to Kingfisher. The airline is supposed to make payments to the oil marketing company regularly to keep the supply lines open.
The airline was also recently threatened by GMR, which operates the Delhi and Hyderabad airports, that it will be put on a cash and carry system after the airline's dues touched Rs. 90 crore (Rs. 68 crore for Delhi and Rs. 22 crore for Hyderabad). Kingfisher has also done away with its low-cost arm, Kingfisher Red, and is now focussing on full service operations.