New Delhi: Beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines was on Tuesday set a 24-hour deadline to come up with a "realistic" flight schedule by the DGCA which ruled out any immediate punitive action to avert further difficulties to air travellers even as the carrier scrapped 40 more flights.

"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 on Tuesday.

"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.

Fare hike not due to flight cancellation: DGCA

Meanwhile, DGCA said there had been no unprecedented hike in fare as a result of large-scale cancellation of Kingfisher flights, but due to last moment buying of tickets in the high fare baskets.

"We haven't witnessed any hike in airfare by the airlines in the wake of large number of cancellations Kingfisher flights. When there are sudden cancellations like this, then passengers have to buy tickets on the higher fare baskets available in the last hour," Director General of Civil Aviation E K Bharat Bhushan said.

He said the DGCA has been keeping a "close watch" on airfares since December 2010 and there has not been any abrupt rise in the fares to cash in on the situation.

There were reports that major airlines have jacked up fares on many busy routes by 10-25 percent over the past few days.

Travel agents have confirmed the development saying fares on some popular sectors like Mumbai-Delhi or Bangalore-Delhi have almost doubled.

They said lower-priced tickets had vanished soon after Kingfisher abruptly started cancelling flights from Friday night.

On the busiest Delhi-Mumbai route on which the one-way airfares average about Rs 4,500-5,000, the prevailing ticket prices of other airlines ranged between Rs 6,555 and Rs 7,305.

Similarly, on the Delhi-Bangalore sector, one-way fare rose from an average of Rs 6,000-7,500 to about Rs 12,000-14,000. The Delhi-Kolkata route saw a jump from Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,500.