"The airlines will have to file a new schedule instead of a truncated one in the next 24 hours," DGCA chief E K Bharat Bhushan told reporters after the regulator quizzed Kingfisher CEO Sanjay Aggarwal and top officials on how they plan to get the crisis-ridden airlines back on track.
The cash-strapped carrier, facing the wrath of Income Tax authorities which have frozen its bank accounts, was operating only 28 of its 64 planes, leading to large-scale disruption of its schedule for the fifth consecutive day.
At least 40 flights were cancelled across its national network today. "To be on the safer side, we have decided to go for safety surveillance of all of their operating aircraft," said Bhushan.
Asked whether DGCA was contemplating cracking the whip on Kingfisher, he said, "let us not talk of punitive action at the moment. We are more interested to see the airline back on its feet. Our priority is not to punish ... because of the immediate difficulties the travelling public will have to face."
A day after he ruled out any Government bailout for Kingfisher, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Government will have to hear them out.
"We have to hear them out. We don't know what their plans are, how they are going to restore normalcy. Then there are safety issues which they have to answer," he said.
Under Rule 140(A) of the Aircraft Rules, 1937, airlines need prior approval of DGCA to curtail their flight schedules. Any violation can amount to cancellation of the flight permit of an airline, as an extreme measure.
After the two-hour meeting with Aggarwal and the airlines executive vice president Hitesh Patel, Bhushan said the DGCA, which had summoned them to explain the large-scale disruption in operations and the reasons for it, also wanted know why payment of salaries has been delayed.
To a spate of questions on whether any action would be taken against the airline, the DGCA chief said, "Whatever needs to be done will be in consultation with the government."
He said the airline's explanation that flights were affected due to freezing of its bank accounts by the Income Tax authorities were not acceptable.
Bhushan said he would submit a report on the discussions to the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The airline had sought permission to operate daily around 400 flights with 64 aircraft during the current winter schedule from November to March.
"In November, when they suddenly truncated some of their flights, we had asked them to give their revised schedule. Today, we took stock of the situation and have found that only 28 out of 64 aircraft are operating," the DGCA chief said.
With 28 planes, the DGCA estimates the airline would be able to daily operate 175 flights. Kingfisher, which suffered a loss of Rs 1,027 crore in 2010-11 and has a debt of Rs 7,057.08 crore, posted a Rs 444 crore loss in third quarter this fiscal.