India's Kingfisher On The Ropes
Days may be numbered for India's largest budget airline but Kingfisher Airlines is soldiering on even though the Indian government has frozen its bank accounts and its pilots are becoming less interested in going to work since they haven't been paid since November. The accounts freeze came last week after the airline failed to meet a deadline to pay millions in back taxes. Somehow, the airline is still finding crews to volunteer to fly the 28 remaining aircraft still operational (from a total fleet of 68) and it's still finding passengers willing to join them. Kingfisher's flamboyant CEO, Vijay Mallya, who lives part-time in Marin County near San Francisco, says his company will survive.
Throughout the apparent demise by degrees of his airline, Mallya has blamed everyone from the media to the government for its problems, but has remained defiant in the face of considerable adversity. "Closing down is not an option. It will not happen. Government does not want it to happen. It is not in national interest," Mallya told a TV station in late February. "We have asked banks to consider our proposal to provide more working capital." How the government's latest action will affect those negotiations remains to be seen.