Struggling Kingfisher Airlines’ hopes of making a phased restart were dashed further after India’s government decided to withdraw the carrier’s international route authority and domestic slots and allot them to other Indian carriers.

“These traffic rights have been withdrawn with immediate effect on account of non-utilization by the airline,” says an official at India’s Civil Aviation Ministry.

State-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) on Feb. 25 was directed by the government to assign Kingfisher’s slots and foreign flying rights to other domestic operators “as per their demand,” the official adds.

In its latest announcement, AAI offers “additional availability of approximately 25,000 seats per week” to eight countries for use by other Indian carriers, according to the ministry official.

The major beneficiaries likely will be national airline Air India Ltd. and subsidiary Air India Express, and private carriers IndiGo, Jet Airways and subsidiary JetKonnect, and SpiceJet.

The traffic rights were allocated to Kingfisher between 2008 and 2011. During that period, Kingfisher operated 14 weekly flights to Bangladesh and Hong Kong; seven to Nepal, Singapore and the U.K.; 35 to Sri Lanka, and 21 to Thailand and UAE.

Private airports, such as those in Delhi and Mumbai, already have started giving slots held by Kingfisher to other airlines.

Kingfisher could not be reached for an immediate comment.

The withdrawal of traffic rights seems to be the final one in a series of moves to ensure that Kingfisher will not fly again, say aviation analysts.

Kingfisher, controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya and once the country’s second-largest airline, has been grounded since Oct. 1 after its flying license was suspended by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) over a labor dispute concerning unpaid salaries.

Moreover, the DGCA last month refused to renew the carrier’s operating license, citing the company’s failure to provide evidence of sufficient funding. And on Feb. 14, the International Air Transport Association revoked Kingfisher’s membership.

Still, the airline seems confident of gaining the DGCA’s approval to restart operations in March with seven aircraft.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh, however, has already made clear that Kingfisher will have to convince the DGCA in order to fly again.

“The wait to restart operations cannot be an endless one, and now it’s all but end of the road for the airline,” the aviation ministry official says.


A320-200 photo: Kingfisher