* All Kingfisher flights on Monday cancelled - minister
* Kingfisher will not be allowed to fly if safety norms not
met - minister
* Some employees manhandled staff willing to work -
* Shares fall by maximum daily limit of 5 pct
(Adds minister's comments on safety)
By Anurag Kotoky
NEW DELHI, Oct 1 Labour unrest forced India's
Kingfisher Airlines Ltd to cancel all its flights on
Monday in the latest blow for the ailing carrier as it scrambles
to find an investor, sending its stock down by its maximum daily
India warned it would not allow Kingfisher to fly if safety
rules were not followed, and the industry regulator will meet
Kingfisher executives on Tuesday to discuss safety issues, Civil
Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said.
Kingfisher, controlled by flamboyant liquor baron Vijay
Mallya and once India's No. 2 carrier by domestic market share,
has struggled with its $1.4 billion debt and banks have refused
to lend it more unless it can infuse fresh equity.
The carrier, which has never made a profit, had already
grounded most of its fleet.
"A section of employees of Kingfisher Airlines has not been
reporting for work over the last fortnight and over the past two
days, they have been threatening and even manhandling the other
employees who are reporting for work," Kingfisher spokesman
Prakash Mirpuri said in a statement on Monday.
Kingfisher said earlier on Monday it was cancelling
"several" flights, but Singh said all the airline's Monday
flights were cancelled. All Kingfisher flights scheduled to
depart from Delhi on Monday were cancelled, the airport's
"I must have been crazy to have booked tickets on
Kingfisher. I don't know what to do now," Bilal Ahmed, 29, who
was due to be married on Wednesday in Srinagar, told Reuters at
Delhi airport, where his flight had been cancelled.
Kingfisher's Mirpuri did not reply to phones calls and text
messages, seeking further comment.
Shares in Kingfisher closed 4.95 percent down at 15.35
rupees on the National Stock Exchange. The stock is allowed to
fall or rise a maximum of 5 percent a day, according to daily
limits set by the exchanges.
Kingfisher, which has been months behind on salary payments,
has seen its operations disrupted several times by fed-up
employees, although until the recent incident there had not
apparently been any reports of violence.
"The point is if safety is jeopardised. That's the issue
here," Singh told reporters on Monday. "This is the first time
that safety issue has come up."
"There are certified engineers, only who can certify that
airworthiness is there or not," Singh said. "If there is no
certificate for airworthiness from the engineers who are
qualified to do that, they won't be allowed to fly."
The Mint newspaper on Monday reported that airline ground
staff had refused to attach an air bridge to a plane in Mumbai
on Sunday, stranding passengers onboard, while some engineers
"beat up" an executive, the newspaper said, citing two unnamed
Arun Mishra, the Director General of Civil Aviation, told
Reuters the regulator was "examining" the situation at
Under Indian rules, an airline needs to operate at least
five planes in order to maintain its licence.
Last month, India allowed foreign airlines to buy stakes of
up to 49 percent in local carriers, a long-awaited policy move
lobbied for by Kingfisher and seen as providing a lifeline to
the country's debt-laden operators.
While no carrier has publicly expressed interest in buying a
stake in Kingfisher, Mallya told shareholders last week he was
in talks with foreign carriers for investments, echoing earlier
comments about potential investments, which have yet to yield
Kingfisher, which has never turned a profit, has seen its
domestic market share fall from second place last year to last
among India's six main carriers. Kingfisher shares have
more-than-doubled from an all-time low of 7.05 rupees in
Last week, its banks held inconclusive talks about the
carrier's turnaround plan and will meet again this month.
Also last week, Mallya's United Spirits Ltd and
Diageo Plc confirmed long-rumoured talks for the UK
giant to take a stake in India's dominant whisky maker, a deal
that could make it easier for Mallya to find funds to rescue
(Additional reporting by Mansi Thapliyal; Writing by Devidutta
Tripathy; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Tony Munroe and