India's Kingfisher halts flights for another week

The BBC's Sameer Hashmi reports that pilots have now joined the protest

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India's Kingfisher airline has grounded its fleet for a further week after talks with workers protesting against months of unpaid wages failed.

On Monday the cash-strapped airline had to suspend flights for three days after some technical staff went on strike.

But late on Thursday it said flights would be grounded until 12 October.

Meanwhile, India's aviation regulator has issued a notice to the airline asking why its permit should not be cancelled or suspended.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the airline had not established a "safe, efficient and reliable service".

The directorate asked it to respond to the notice within 15 days.

In a separate development, the wife of a Kingfisher employee has killed herself, leaving a note blaming financial stress because her husband's salary had not been paid.

Sushmita Chakravorty, 45, wife of Manas Chakravorty, a member of Kingfisher's ground staff, hanged herself at her home in Delhi's Mangalpuri area, police said.

They said she left a suicide note in which she spoke of worries because her husband had not received his full salary for several months. The airline is yet to comment on the death.

'Regret'

Kingfisher, owned by Vijay Mallya, has been struggling with a cash shortage and has reported losses for five years in a row.

In a statement issued late on Thursday night, Kingfisher spokesman Prakash Mirpuri expressed "regret" that staff had refused to return to work.

"We regret that the illegal strike has still not been withdrawn and normalcy has not been restored in the company, thereby continuing to cripple and paralyse the working of the entire airline," Mr Mirpuri said.

In July, the airline was forced to cancel 40 flights after staff went on strike, again over the airline's failure to pay months of wages.

After the government relaxed investment rules last month allowing foreign airlines to buy up to a 49% stake in domestic carriers in India, Mr Mallya said discussions were taking place which could allow overseas operators to invest in the airline.

But analysts say that this week's disruption and safety concerns could hurt efforts to win the investment that could save the airline from collapse.

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