The Airports Authority of India (AAI) has found an ingenious way to recover at least some of the Rs 290 crore owed to it by the grounded Kingfisher Airlines. A couple of months ago, India’s state-owned airports operator allowed a lessor to take back two aircraft it had leased to Kingfisher — in return for a fee.
The deal benefits both the lessor and AAI, both of whom are owed money by Vijay Mallya’s company. Releasing the aircraft allows the lessor to lease them out again. And besides bringing in cash for AAI, also frees up precious space the aircraft were occupying in Indian airports.
“We receive a lot of requests from the lessors of these Kingfisher planes, who now want to take them back. We have put up a charge of Rs 10 crore for large Airbus 320 aircraft, and Rs 2.5 crore for small aircraft (ATRs) for lessors to take them back. This helps us in clearing our dues and the lessors get back the aircraft, which they can lease again,” a senior AAI official said.
“We have already been able to earn Rs 5 crore by allowing a lessor to take back two of its ATRs two-and-a-half months back,” he added.
AAI has some 30 Kingfisher aircraft in its possession. Eight of these are ATRs, and the rest are large planes. Kingfisher is not paying the lessors, who are desperate to have their aircraft back. If all lessors took up the offer, AAI could theoretically recover three-quarters of its dues from Kingfisher.
But there are others claimants waiting in line. The service tax department has seized an ATR to recover its dues from Kingfisher. And according to rules, AAI’s claim on the assets of a defaulting company comes third — behind the service tax/income-tax departments and the oil companies.
“If these two parties decide to seize the aircraft, it automatically goes out of our possession, as their rights are above ours,” the AAI official said.
Kingfisher isn’t the only defaulter; Air India, the recipient of a public bailout, owes AAI Rs 1,500 crore. “We have written to the civil aviation ministry making it clear that we should get a proportionate share from the next infusion or any borrowings that Air India arranges. We expect Air India to clear some of our dues the next time it gets money,” said the official.