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Kingfisher Airlines offers to pay three months' salaries

Mumbai: Even as aviation minister Ajit Singh told NDTV that it was "'unrealistic" to expect Kingfisher Airline to fly again, talks with between the troubled carrier's management and employees ended inconclusively this evening. "Kingfisher has taken its employees for a ride," Mr Singh told NDTV. (Unrealistic to expect Kingfisher to fly again, says Ajit Singh)

The management has offered to pay salaries for three months, in a staggered manner, over October and November and has given the employees till Thursday to get revert. But the employees refused the offer so far. They are demanding that at least four months' salary be given to them for them to consider returning to work.Pilots as well as engineers were part of this meeting. (Kingfisher crisis: Top 10 Developments)

"We have talked about there being three (months') salaries to be paid before Diwali. We will know the logistics, but the intention is everyone should be back at work in a day or two," Aggarwal told reporters."We expect employees will be at work by October 26," he said.

Kingfisher Airlines' licence suspended by aviation regulator

While Mr Aggarwal seemed confident that most employees will return to work, a section of the workers remain equally adamant. "So many times in the previous times, you haven't kept by your word. How do we trust that you will give our dues? Give us four months salaries, that was our demand, we will come and resume the work," said SC Mishra, the spokesperson for the engineers in the airline. "One employee's wife has already committed suicide due to sheer pressure. How many dead bodies do you want to see?," he said.

What could create a problem for the employees on strike is that there seems to be a split between the pilots and the rest of the staff. Sources within Kingfisher told NDTV that at least 80 per cent employees are unhappy with the management's offer, but if there is a split, then they might have to give in to the pressure. Employees are likely to meet the management again tomorrow for  a "final offer".

Kingfisher's licence was suspended on Saturday after it failed to address the civil aviation regulator's concerns about its operations, forcing the debt-laden carrier to stop taking bookings. The carrier is seven months behind on salary payment.

Today's meeting was the first one between the two sides after Kingfisher Airlines' licence was suspended on Saturday after it failed to address airline regulator Dirctorate General of Civil Aviation's concerns about its operations, forcing the debt-laden carrier to stop taking bookings.

Controlled by Vijay Mallya - the self-styled "King of Good Times" - and seven months behind on salary payments among other missed bills, Kingfisher's fleet has been grounded since the start of the month when a staff protest turned violent. The airline, which has never made a profit since being founded in 2004 and reeling under $1.4 billion of debt, will have its licence reinstated if it provides a plan that satisfies the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

The company's steep decline has underlined the problems of operating in India's airline sector, where players grappling with rising fuel costs face aggressive pricing caused by overcapacity.

The suspension signalled the regulator's lack of patience with Kingfisher after months of cancelled flights and staff walkouts, and marked a rare tough stance by the government against a high-profile corporate. "The actual position is not changed because of this order," Kingfisher said in a statement. "We have, in any case, always maintained that once the issues with the employees are resolved, we will first present our resumption plan to DGCA for review, before resuming operations".

Mr Mallya, a liquor baron who owns a Formula 1 motor-racing team, is famous for lavish parties at his $16 million beachside villa in Goa and also his company's annual swimsuit calendar.

The licence suspension, until further notice, was announced by Arun Mishra, director general at the DGCA.The move had been widely expected after Kingfisher failed to respond properly to queries from the regulator regarding its ability to provide a "safe, efficient and reliable service".

"The suspension of Kingfisher's licence is unfortunate but not unexpected," Amber Dubey, director, aerospace and defence at KPMG India, said in a statement. "Kingfisher's ability to bounce back from this situation appears challenging."

Kingfisher's troubles will likely help rivals such as Indigo and SpiceJet  by lowering capacity on key routes. The airline had said on Friday it expected to begin flying again on November 6 if the government approved its plan to resume operations. The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation has said a fully funded turnaround for Kingfisher would cost at least $1 billion.

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