India's Kingfisher Airlines employees end strike

Thursday - 10/25/2012, 7:21am EDT

By ASHOK SHARMA
Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) - Thousands of pilots, engineers and other employees of cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines on Thursday ended their weeks-old strike following an agreement with the management over payment of salaries overdue for the past seven months.

Kingfisher CEO Sanjay Aggarwal said he hoped that the airline, which stopped flying early this month, would be back in the sky in the next few weeks.

"We have shared all their concerns, they have been addressed," Aggarwal told reporters after meeting with representatives of the striking workers.

The employees would be paid four months of overdue salary by the end of December and the rest subsequently, said Subhash Chandra Mishra, a spokesman for the workers.

The airline's management is now expected to approach the Indian government for restoration of its license which was suspended last week because of concerns about the safety of passengers.

Kingfisher, once one of India's best airlines, is deep in debt and is battling for a lifeline with India's airline regulator.

The Center for Asia Pacific Aviation, an airline industry research group, puts Kingfisher's outstanding debt at $2.5 billion, including about $1.1 billion in bank debt, and says its accumulated losses swelled to $1.9 billion by the end of June.

Kingfisher owner Vijay Mallya is famous for his flashy lifestyle and lavish parties attended by fashion models, Bollywood movie stars and cricket players.

Mallya's United Brewery Group is India's largest brewer and owns other businesses in industries from chemicals to information technology. He also owns Force India, an F1 team and Royal Challengers, a cricket team. Mallya's net worth is $1 billion, according to Forbes.

Kingfisher hasn't made a profit since it was founded in 2005, according to FactSet, a financial information provider.


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