Employees at India’s beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines today ended their weeks-long strike after management ensured payment of months of unpaid salaries by the end of this year.

“The airline’s protesting pilots and engineers have agreed to resume duty from Oct. 26, having accepted management’s proposal to disburse salary for the month of March in 24 hours and for April by Oct. 30. The salary for the month of May will be paid by Nov. 13,” says CEO Sanjay Aggarwal in a statement.

“We are looking forward to getting the airline going in the next few weeks,” he adds.

Employees of the financially troubled airline had stayed away from work since the end of September, forcing a complete shutdown of the airline’s daily operations since Oct. 1.

“We have reached an agreement with the management on the salary issue. We will join back work immediately,” says a representative for the airline’s employee groups.

“We will receive our first pay for the month of March today, followed by April’s salary on Oct. 31 and then May’s pay by Diwali [a Hindu festival in mid-November]. Our fourth month’s pay will be given by year-end, sometime in December,” he added.

Now that staff are returning to work, Kingfisher can now prepare a new revival plan and present it to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which suspended the airline’s operating license on Oct. 2.

“We expect to be in the sky soon and put forth our case to the DGCA,” Aggarwal adds. Currently, the airline has 10 operational aircraft, down significantly from the 66-strong fleet from last year.

The DGAC is more cautious. “Salary is a big issue, and the employees should be paid. But the bigger issue than that is their fiscal assurance to the DGCA,” says Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh.

“The airline has a lot of outstanding [debt] to the Airports Authority [of India], to companies, to lessors. So, it’s not just a question of salaries to the employees.”

ATR 72 photo: Kingfisher