Kingfisher indefinitely postpones Hong Kong and Singapore operations

I forwarded my “eureka” moment to Dr. Vijay Mallya about servicing the Kangaroo route via Mumbai, given the imminent withdrawal of Qantas from the Mumbai-Sydney route.

He very kind replied, and my thanks to him.

Dear Mr. Agarwal,

Thank you for your email of 6 January, for your good wishes and compliments on the launch of our international operations. I am pleased to know that you are a member of King Club and that you are frequent traveler with Kingfisher Airlines.

I acknowledge your suggestion that Kingfisher Airlines should operate flights between London Heathrow, Singapore and Sydney via Mumbai and appreciate your insightful inputs. I would like to share with you that the network planning team is indeed looking at establishing the best possible network internationally, by efficiently utilizing our fleet of aircraft, in order to make the convenience and delight of flying Kingfisher Airlines available to our overseas guests.

I thank you once again for your patronage of Kingfisher Airlines and look forward to the continued pleasure of welcoming you on board our flights.

Cheers,

Dr. Vijay Mallya
Chairman & CEO
Kingfisher Airlines
A UB Group Company

But then, I came across this article in the Mint newspaper and my heart sunk.

Kingfisher postpones launch of two flights

The airline, which had started taking Hong Kong and Singapore flight booking in December, is refunding passengers or transferring them to other flights

New Delhi: India’s second largest carrier by passengers flown, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd has postponed plans to start flights to Hong Kong and Singapore from Mumbai this week, and is refunding customers or transferring them to other airlines.

Despite an economic slowdown and slowing passenger demand, the airline run by liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya had planned to launch a daily flight to Hong Kong starting on Monday and to Singapore on Friday, as part of its overseas expansion plan.

“Kingfisher will not start operating at Hong Kong International Airport on 12 January,” said Cathy Cheung, a spokeswoman for the Airport Authority Hong Kong, without giving details. The airline earlier this month pulled the flights off the ticketing system, said an executive at an online travel portal who did not want to be named. “They have postponed them indefinitely without giving any reason,” the executive said.

The airline, which had started taking Hong Kong and Singapore flight booking in December, is refunding passengers or transferring them to other flights. Kingfisher Airlines flies to London from Bangalore and Mumbai using up to three of the five wide-body Airbus SAS-made A330 aircraft that it took delivery of last year. At least two other A330 aircraft grounded at Mumbai and Bangalore airports since late last year would have been put to use with the addition of the two new international routes.

A Kingfisher Airlines executive, who didn’t want to be named, said the airline may finally launch flights on those routes in mid-February after its flights using Airbus A320 planes to Dubai and Colombo take off. One reason for the delay was a glitch in the in-flight entertainment system, this executive said.

Singapore’s Changi Airport said it could not confirm any dates for Kingfisher’s flights yet. “We are always in discussion with prospective airlines,” said Constanze Chia, spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, “and we will announce the commencement of new airlines at Changi Airport at the appropriate time when plans are finalized.” Flights from Chennai and Bangalore to Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, are expected to start on 19 January and the Bangalore-Dubai flight from 8 February, Mint reported earlier. Kingfisher Airlines operates about 442 flights a day with a fleet of 87 aircraft.

Given the high lease rentals for the wide-body A330 aircraft, the airline has little choice but to fly them, said an analyst. Each Airbus A330 costs around $10 million (Rs 48.6 crore) in annual lease rental. “The three aircraft they have on ground will be utilized; perhaps sooner. You cannot afford to keep three A330s on ground,” said Kapil Kaul, India head for the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

Cancelling a much publicised launch due to the in-flight entertainment system ?!?!?!? Naaaahh!!!!!!

I am afraid, Kingfisher is loosing credibility with this on-again, off-again, approach.

Getting passengers on the ultra-competitive Mumbai-Hong Kong and Mumbai-Singapore routes is not easy, even more so, when you are competing head on with Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. While the lease rentals cost $10 million, flying the aircraft with less than break-even passenger loads would be even more expensive. Now that the peak Christmas-New Year rush is over, passenger numbers will dwindle drastically, and could be one of the reasons for the withdrawal.

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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