India’s government says it is unrealistic to expect grounded Kingfisher Airlines to fly again in the near future after the country’s aviation regulator suspended the carrier’s flying license for failing to produce a credible financial and operational revival plan.

“The safety concerns are the most important. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation [DGCA] does not, at this moment, think that Kingfisher can improve their financial state; the strike also, at the moment, will not stop. So after keeping all this in mind, it suspended the license,” Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh says in a television interview.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to resolve the 23-day-old impasse with its striking workers, Kingfisher’s management today met again with employees. The meeting ended inconclusively after the employees refused to accept management’s offer to pay salaries for three months.

“We have talked about three months’ salaries to be paid before Diwali [the Hindu festival]. We will know the logistics, but the intention is everyone should be back at work in a day or two,” says CEO Sanjay Aggarwal.

“We expect employees will be at work by October 26,” he says.

According to the civil aviation ministry, before resuming operations, Kingfisher will have to approach the DGCA and convince it that it is fully prepared to fly with all safety measures in place.

“Kingfisher can always come back. But they have to have a proper plan from here on; they have to improve their financial state; disgruntled employees have to be taken into confidence,” Singh says.

A government order suspending Kingfisher’s operator certificate was issued on Oct. 20, although the airline says it hopes to resume operations on Nov. 6.

But a DGCA official says “The license will not be revived until it [Kingfisher] submits a concrete and reliable revival plan.”

“The airline has not addressed any of the issues raised by the DGCA,” the official says.

The regulator, however, did not cancel the license, giving the airline an opportunity to submit a recovery plan for revoking the suspension. Soon after the suspension of its license, Kingfisher stopped booking of tickets. “We are now immediately suspending all forward bookings till such time we resume operations,” an airline official says. “It is our endeavor to restart operations at the earliest.”

Experts say the airline’s exit from the Indian skies will likely facilitate rivals to further prop up fares, especially with increasing demand for seats.

A320-200 photo: Kingfisher