To no one’s surprise, Kingfisher Airlines has floated into yet another stormy spell of turbulence.
For the second time in four months, flights are being cancelled without “guests” being told in advance; employees haven’t been paid for months; the airline owes money to the oil companies and airports; the airline’s bank accounts have been frozen; there is no food on flights due to “technical reasons”; Yana Gupta isn’t exhorting us to tighten our seat belts because the in-flight entertainment systems are off, and…
And the king of good times, the pasha of profligacy—the honorary doctorate in “business administration” from South California University—is once again trying to hoodwink his friends in the government. No, not to “bail out” the airline, because as someone who believes in the free market, he is ostensibly against it. No, he just wants the government to tweak its civil aviation policy, which is short hand to bail out all the airlines which are similarly floundering.
Last time round, when “Dr” Vijay Mallya‘s airline was gasping for breath, the government had forced private sector banks to pick up a stake in Kingfisher at a premium—yes, at a premium—in the name of corporate debt restructuring (CDR), convincing sceptics that modern-day capitalism seems to have become about socialising losses and privatising profits, conflict of interest be damned.
Even so, the plight of the excellent but poorly managed airline struggling to stay afloat, even as rumours swirl around of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) being interested in it, prompt a simple question: should Vijay Mallya—he of Royal Challengers Bangalore, Formula One, the yachts, the calendars, and of course the booze—be rescued? Or should Kingfisher be allowed to breathe its last, even if it has a domino effect on other airlines, thus endangering civil aviation in the country?