Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh on Thursday ruled out cancelling the licence of Kingfisher Airlines even as the carrier continued to curtail its daily flight operations due to a cash crunch, an exodus of pilots and operational reasons.
"We don't want Kingfisher to shut down. We do not have any plans to cancel Kingfisher's licence. An airline can operate until it has at least five planes in its fleet," Singh told reporters in Delhi.
The development comes as the cash-strapped airline continued to curtail its operations for the sixth consecutive day on Thursday.
Sources in the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the regulator has received the airline's new schedule via an e-mail and was studying it.
The regulator is probing the large-scale cancellations and whether financial constraints have in any way compromised passenger safety.
According to sources, the airline has violated Rule 140 of the Aircraft Rules by not seeking prior approval of the regulator before curtailing its schedule for the second time since last year.
With 28 planes, the regulator estimates that Kingfisher would only be able to operate about 175 flights each week, down from its revised 240 operations per day.
The regulator is also said to be screening the airlines' operational aircraft to find their airworthiness and if financial constraints have in any way compromised passenger safety.
The airline's latest trouble started on February 18 when its employees in Kolkata went on a flash strike. The carrier, on the other hand, blames the seizure of its bank accounts by the Income Tax department as the main reason for flight plan curtailment.
Kingfisher has a debt of Rs7,057.08 crore. The company's net loss widened to Rs444.26 crore for the quarter ended on December 31, 2011, from Rs253.69 crore in the October-December quarter in the last fiscal.