Category Archives: Airlines in India

India’s GoAir: We’re Only Hiring Female Flight Attendants Because…

If you guessed that Indian low-fare carrier GoAir had made the decision to stop hiring male flight attendants as a way to save money on fuel, you are a genius of some sort (or perhaps should be the CEO of an Indian lowfare carrier).

Currently, about 40% of their flight attendants are male, but going forward they will no longer hire men because, they say, they weigh 30 pounds or so heavier on average than female flight attendants.

The lighter loads translate to less fuel burn, to the tune of about $1 extra per flight hour to make up for the 30 pound difference. Over the course of the year they say this will translate to roughly $500,000 in fuel savings (the article says 2.5-to-3 crore Rupees…you’re welcome for me figuring out what that means).

Kingfisher Airlines’ License Suspended by Government…Not a Good Sign

India’s Kingfisher Airlines, which had previously suspended flights because of a cash shortage that resulted in employees not being paid for months, has been told by the Indian government that its license to fly has been suspended indefinitely.

The government had previously given the airline 15 days to submit a reorganization plan, but they were unable to present such a document in that time. The government took a hard line and suspended the operating license, a move that seems harsh but actually makes a ton of sense as the airline had long stopped paying employees, suppliers and airports.

The airline, for its part, is downplaying the severity of the move (which in itself is a bit concerning), saying “this is not a cancellation but a temporary suspension, which is valid only till such time that we submit a concrete and reliable revival plan…” as if they will be up and running as soon as they finish their homework.

It’s been a long, long demise for Kingfisher which had ordered 5 A380s in hopes of becoming India’s answer to Emirates. The airline has never been profitable, and its late-2007 acquisition of money-losing Ryanair-lite Air Deccan coupled with the ensuing global economic crisis probably sealed the carrier’s fate.

Even if the airline submits a reorganization plan (which is still an open question), it’s highly unlikely the government would approve it given its history.

Jet Airways Requests Permission to Join Star Alliance

Jet Airways has asked the Indian aviation ministry for permission to join Star Alliance. This gives the Indian government a bit of a conundrum: government-owned Air India was set to join Star Alliance in 2011, but depending on whom you believe, they were either such an unbelievable operational disaster that Star would not permit them to join, or (according to the Indian government) Star put such ridiculous requirements on Air India that there was no way they could possibly join.

(For those keeping score at home, Air India is the only airline asked to become a member of Star Alliance that was then later told they could not join.)

Jet’s entry to Star Alliance would be a nice get for the group, as it would give them a significant presence in India – and on an airline with acclaimed service and premium class cabins.

India’s aviation sector is a mess, in no small part because of the government’s protectionist strategy designed to keep the mess-of-a-carrier Air India afloat while not permitting any reasonable amount of competition either from outside airlines providing far better service, nor from startup carriers within India (who are required to fly for 5 years before being given international routes).

Kingfisher Airlines Cancels All International Service

I really didn’t mean to write constantly about the very, very slow death of India’s Kingfisher Airlines. I assumed they would disappear like a US-based airline where 1 day they’re here, and 1 day they’re not. But no. Not Kingfisher. It’s been months of not paying their employees and not paying their taxes and having their bank accounts seized and so on.

Now, they’ve canceled all of their international services. This is a big deal, not least of which because in India you need to be flying for 5 years before they’ll even grant you the right to fly internationally. And given the overcrowded domestic market, no one can run a profitable airline only flying within India.

March 25th is the last they’ll be flying to most cities outside India, except for London, which will be canceled April 9.

Little-by-little they’re shutting down and one day (apparently months from now) I’ll write about when the shutter. Until then, I would most definitely avoid them on any intra-India trips.

Kingfisher Airlines Suspended from IATA: The Middle of the Beginning of the End

An update on struggling Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines faced another blow yesterday when IATA suspended it from membership. This means that Kingfisher can no longer use IATA’s payment clearinghouse or payment & settling which, in practical terms, means most travel agents can’t sell tickets and no interlining or codesharing can occur.

Kingfisher hasn’t been paying its employees or partners for months, and the equivalent of the Indian IRS has frozen the airline’s accounts after it stopped paying taxes.

Kingfisher began to go bad just prior to the global slowdown in 2008, when it committed to purchase A380s and, in a move that looks not particularly bright in hindsight, leveraged itself up to purchase budget airline Air Deccan.

I would absolutely NOT recommend buying a ticket on Kingfisher at this point.

Kingfisher Airlines Employees Go Unpaid for 2 Months

In the “this is not a good sign department”: Struggling Kingfisher Airlines has not paid employees since December, adding to the signs that the carrier may not make it.

You may remember that the Indian airline “postponed” entry into Oneworld a few weeks back to deal with some financial issues. Apparently not paying its employees was one of those issues.

The airline’s CEO blames the non-payment on unexpected emergency payments that needed to be made in December, but really the problem is the rather massive (7,000 crore Rupees, or as we would say, $1.4 billion) debt that they’re sitting on.

Kingfisher isn’t the only Indian airline in trouble: Jet Airways has not paid its employees for January yet. Combined, the two airlines, which may not survive much longer, employ 18,000 people.

The Indian airline industry has struggled with overcapacity, brutal fare competition, and, of course, protectionism, keeping foreign investment in airlines to a minimum. They also require startups to fly for 5 years before permitting them to fly internationally, forcing new carriers to compete in the brutal domestic market.

Fight Attendants! Pilots and Flight Attendants Fight in Indian Airlines Cockpit

Flight staff came to blows during an Indian Airlines flight from Sharjah, UAE, to Lucknow, India.  The pilot and co-pilot were reportedly harassing a female flight attendant and pushed her out of the cockpit.  A male flight attendant came to her aid, and a fight broke out between all four staff members.  The fight may have started over whether the flight attendant announced the correct flying time over the PA.  I know, that doesn’t make any sense.

The story reports that both pilots may have been out of the cockpit at the same time, which also doesn’t make much sense, but there ya go.

The female flight attendant has filed charges against the pilot.

India’s Jet Airways Crippled by Pilot Strike

Pilots for India’s Jet Airways have staged a sick-out for the second day to protest the airline’s handling of pilot firings.  The strike has crippled the airline, forcing the carrier to cancel 206 flights today, including more than 170 domestic trips.  More than 400 pilots have called in sick to protest the sacking of 5 pilots by the airline.

The labor strife has caused significant problems for the airline, which is already on shaky financial ground. – domestic reservations have dropped by nearly half.

Jet has tried to cut expenses in the past by eliminating workers, but faced a major rebellion which caused the company to cancel plans to eliminate 1,900 staff members.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the 5 fired pilots are reinstated and everyone gets on with their life.

Air India Fires 10 Flight Attendants for Being Too Fat

Air India, which has strict rules about how much their flight attendants can weigh, has fired 10 of its staff for being too fat (whether or not they were Phat was not mentioned in the article).  According to the airline, “an 18-year-old air hostess with a height of 152 cm, the maximum weight permissible is 50 kg, while for air hostesses in the age group of 26 to 30 and a height of 152 cm, the weight limit is 56 kg.” (Yes, I’m too lazy to convert those numbers).

India’s high court has allowed the airline to maintain rules related to flight attendant weights.

India’s Consolidation Continues: Jet and Kingfisher Sign Alliance

If you don’t care about airlines in India, feel free to skip ahead…

The Indian airline industry has seen a massive amount of consolidation over the past couple of years, and that strategy continued today with Jet Airways and Kingfisher agreeing to an alliance that will control 60% of the domestic market.  The past couple of years have seen tie ups between Air India and Indian, Jet Airways and Air Sahara, Kingfisher and Air Deccan, and now this Jet and Kingfisher thing.  GoAir, SpiceJet and IndiGo remain independents (for now), but I’m not sure how they could possibly survive.  India’s airlines lost a billion dollars last year and are on track to lose $2 billion this year (high fuel prices, shrinking demand, lower fares all contribute).  Add to that ridiculous overlap on key routes and it’s a disaster.  The airlines have now turned to the government for a bailout (hm, sound familiar?)