HK travel agent ticket sales for Kingfisher halted
Travel agents in the city stopped selling fares for flights on Kingfisher Airlines yesterday after computer reservation firms halted ticketing operations for the troubled Indian carrier.
This came within hours of the International Air Transport Association announcing it had suspended the airline's participation in its billing and settlement systems for passengers and cargo because it had failed to provide a required cash deposit.
Prakash Mirpuri, the airline's vice-president of corporate communications in India, said: 'This situation has arisen as a consequence of our bank accounts having been frozen by the tax authorities. We are making all possible efforts to remedy this temporary situation.'
Mirpuri said passengers could book and buy tickets on its website or through its ticketing offices.
One travel insider said: 'This will affect all travel agents in Hong Kong using a computerised reservations system.' He estimated 700 to 800 travel agents would be affected.
Susanna Lau Mei-sze, general manager of marketing and business development at Travel Expert, confirmed it stopped ticket sales. Hong Thai Travel Services said ticketing for Kingfisher was not available.
The airline carries on average of 500 to 600 passengers a day on its four flights between Hong Kong, Delhi and Mumbai.
Nevcivan Cetiner, Kingfisher's area manager for Hong Kong, said most of the airline's tickets in Hong Kong were sold via travel agents.
'In Hong Kong, it's a travel agent's market,' she said. She was still waiting to get more details about the situation from the airline's head office in India.
She said passenger loads on its Airbus A330 flights between Hong Kong and India had fallen, and now averaged 60 per cent on the Mumbai route, since the airline cut its services after grounding 36 of its 64 aircraft.
One travel source said Kingfisher would halt services to either Delhi or Mumbai from Hong Kong next month. Cetiner said details had yet to be agreed.
Albert Tjoeng, IATA's Singapore-based spokesman, said the airline was suspended because it failed to provide a cash deposit that was needed to ensure it was able to meet its financial obligations in the billing and settlement schemes.
Tjoeng said suspension from the passenger ticket and cargo systems meant Kingfisher could not use them to settle sales with agents.
'The airline is still free to sell and settle directly with travel agents and freight forwarders,' he said. Kingfisher would be reinstated once the airline lodged its cash deposit.
Tjoeng declined to say how big a deposit was required or give the volume of Kingfisher's sales via the passenger and cargo system, saying it was confidential information.
Yesterday's move came after IATA suspended Kingfisher from its account settlement system on Wednesday due to non-payment of fees.
An Airport Authority spokeswoman said: 'As of now, it's business as usual for Kingfisher at HKIA. We will monitor the situation closely.'