NEW DELHI/MUMBAI, July 14 (IANS): Passengers of Kingfisher Airlines were stranded Saturday as 40 flights across India were cancelled due to a strike by pilots over non-payment of salaries.
Passengers in the national capital were impacted the most as 12 flights were axed from New Delhi alone. Six flights were scrapped in Mumbai and three in Bangalore.
Other flights to and from Chennai, Chandigarh, Dehradun and Dharamshala were also impacted.
The pilots are protesting against non-payment of salaries and other dues for the past five months.
In a bid to contain the damage, Kingfisher chairman Vijay Mallya made a passionate appeal to the pilots to call off their strike.
In a letter to employees, Mallya said: "I sincerely hope that all of you will listen carefully to my appeal and work together to restore Kingfisher to its rightful place. I really hope that good sense will prevail.
"I am doing my best. If some of you think that cancelling flights or disgracing our company will produce cash and salaries, you are wrong.
"This only makes my recapitalisation efforts more difficult by causing concern and apprehension among our potential investors.
"One of the main reasons that has motivated me into investing more money to keep Kingfisher flying is that I see light ahead."
Mallya asserted that he was devoting more time for the airline than any other UB (United Breweries) group companies and had invested over Rs.4,000 crore into Kingfisher Airlines since its start.
"We worked hard to gain the trust and confidence of our guests. Today, by forcibly cancelling several flights we have lost most of that," he said.
According to an airline official, the company has paid salary to more than 75 percent of employees. The others will get their dues by Monday.
The official said passengers booked on the cancelled flights have either been re-booked or refunded money.
This is the third time in the last 12 days that Kingfisher pilots went on strike.
The airline is going through a severe financial crisis and has seen an exodus of pilots and engineers. The airline had to cancel several flights in May as a group of pilots called in sick.
The cash-strapped airline had also suspended operations to several cities in the last week of March and asked its staff to stay at home till it managed fresh funding.
The airline's international operations had been suspended after the International Air Transport Association (IATA) barred the carrier from its inter-airline clearing house and billing and settlement plan accounts due to non-payment of dues.
The move is akin to the Reserve Bank of India removing a commercial bank from its currency clearing system.