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Kingfisher pilots pin hope on Capt. Gopinath's aviation venture

Kingfisher pilots pin hope on Capt. Gopinath's aviation venture

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Mumbai:

With little hope of being airborne again in the near future, a section of Kingfisher Airlines pilots are now pinning their hopes on the erstwhile Deccan Air founder Captain Gopinath's proposed new carrier and making frequent enquiries about its launch.

"With airlines like Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir not hiring, Kingfisher pilots, who along with other employees have not been paid for the last eight months, are now hinging their hopes on (Captain) Gopinath's new aviation venture," sources said.

Some pilots are already in touch with Capt. Gopinath while others are betting on Kingfisher's revival amidst talk of Mr Mallya trying to rope in a foreign partner, they said.

"First, we don't expect this (Kingfisher) airline to take off in the near future. And even if it does, it will be a low-scale operation as the management has suggested in the revival plan. How long we will have to sit without flying is anybody's guess," pilots, unwilling to be named, said.

The Vijay Mallya-promoted carrier now owes eight months’ salary to its staff, despite a written assurance by its chief executive Sanjay Aggarwal that salary arrears of the staff till June would be remitted before Christmas.

Mr Aggarwal had promised the pilots that they would be paid their May salary before Diwali (November 14). In a settlement reached earlier, employees were to be paid their April salaries by 31 October and May salary by November 12. Salaries for the months of June-September were to be paid once the company is recapitalised.

From October on, the company was supposed to pay salaries a month late, which means the October salary will be paid by the last week of December, he had assured then, following which the almost a month-long agitation by pilots and engineers was called off.

"Let alone June salary, a good number of pilots have not received even payment for May also," they said.

Capt. Gopinath, who has already tried his luck in the aviation business twice, first by launching country's first low-cost airline Air Deccan and then air cargo operations, is now reportedly set to make a re-entry sometime next year with another aviation business.

The Deccan founder, who sold his carrier to Mr Mallya for Rs 550 crore in 2007, currently has a 5-year non-competing clause in his agreement with Mr Mallya, which comes to an end on January 28, 2013.

"Some of us have worked with the Captain (Gopinath) and that experience will definitely stand us in good stead when he plans to hire pilots," they said, adding he "never defaulted" on employees' salaries despite losses.

The Bangalore-based entrepreneur is all set for his re-entry into the airline segment and is in talks with some overseas airlines to take them on board and launch a passenger carrier by mid next year.

Though Kingfisher Airline has submitted its interim revival plan to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, industry people are not quite hopeful about its revival.

While Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has termed the plan as "wishful thinking," the regulator also does not seem to be quite convinced about the documents submitted by the defunct airline management and has sought more papers on how the airline would fund its operations in future.

"DGCA has sought additional details from Kingfisher Airlines on how it would fund its revival plan submitted to the aviation regulator for resumption of its flight operations," official sources had told PTI here yesterday.

Story first published on: December 31, 2012 09:27 (IST)

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