Kingfisher Airlines international flights in jeopardy ?

The expansion of Kingfisher Airlines’ much publicised and recent launch international operations, appears to be heading for a cutback even before it has really taken off.

AviationWeek’s Neelam Mathews reports “Kingfisher Airlines is likely to stop its international operations following the deepening financial crisis that has hit the Indian airline industry”. She also reports that “Expat pilots and crew at Kingfisher that have been waiting since March for international operations to take place, are expected to be laid-off following this decision.”

UK Flights
Currently, the sole international flight of Kingfisher is a daily Airbus A330 on the Bangalore-London Heathrow route. This flight is reportedly performing very poorly, with an average of 35 passengers per flight. However, the flights for Diwali week are reportedly sold out.

The Mumbai-London Heathrow daily Airbus A330 flight is scheduled to commence on October 26th, but as on date, this appears to be a non-starter, since, the flight has not even been loaded on to the reservation system, with less than 2 weeks to go.

US Non Stop flights
The ambitious plans to link the two “Silicon Cities” of Bangalore and San Francisco are definitely off, at least for now. Middle level managers have been informed the dates have been postponed, but no new dates are indicated. All plans are being kept close to the chests of the top most brass at Kingfisher, and nothing is being revealed.

Kingfisher had planned to use its 5 ultra long range Airbus A340-500 aircraft on the Bangalore San Francisco and Bangalore New York route. The astronomical price of oil, coupled with the global economic meltdown, has sent these plans up in smoke.

Unable to take deliveries of the aircraft, both Kingfisher and Airbus were desperate to sell these five aircraft. Three of these aircraft have been sold to Nigerian carrier Arik Air. Rumours abound that Portuguese carrier HiFly has taken the two aircraft and will wet lease the aircraft to Arik, but it is not sure whether these two are from the three aircraft bought by Arik, or the balance two A340-500’s left with Airbus.

Photo (C) Airbus

With the sale(s), it is obvious that Kingfisher will not have the A340-500 aircraft to offer the non-stop service. In my opinion, it is a smart move. The two other Asian operators of the A340, have dramatically scaled back or stopped their US non-stop flights. Thai Airways has grounded its A340-500 fleet and Singapore Airlines is converting its fleet to all business class. I am sure that is just to keep the public image. Those flights are haemorrhaging money. Dubai based Emirates could not care about the price of oil, they control it.

Now that Jet Airways has cut back on its Mumbai-Shanghai-San Francisco route, Kingfisher should use this opportunity to provide a Bangalore-Shanghai/Hong Kong/Taipei/Tokyo-San Francisco flight using its A330-200s.

Aircraft Orders
Kingfisher Airlines has taken deliveries of 5 Airbus A330-200 aircraft. 2 are deployed on the BLR-LHR route, 3 others are lying idle. Rumours have it, that these aircraft will be deployed on Hong Kong, Dubai, and Singapore routes, from Bangalore and Mumbai, but there is no concrete information on when.

Even at Toulouse, the home of Airbus, there is a veritable parking lot of undelivered Kingfisher liveried aircraft, as this photo by a380spotter shows.

Things are most definitely not rosy at Kingfisher, and the King of good times, needs to find some “good times” fast.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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