India's private airlines threat to stop domestic routes

MUMBAI: India's private airlines have threatened to suspend all domestic flights for one day next month as part of plans to seek financial assistance from the government, their industry body said.

The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), whose members include Air India, Deccan, Go, IndiGo, Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Paramount Airways and spiceJet, said no planes will take off or land on internal routes on August 18.

"Everyone is bleeding. We need help to stay in business," said Naresh Goyal, chairman of Jet Airways, one of India's largest private sector carriers.

The FIA, which announced the decision after a meeting in Mumbai on Friday, said India's aviation industry could suffer combined losses of 100 billion rupees (2.06 billion dollars) in the financial year to March 2009.

Jet Airways last week reported a first quarter net loss of 2.25 billion rupees, down from a profit of 1.43 billion rupees in the same period a year earlier, hit by over-capacity and high interest costs.

India's national flag carrier Air India, struggling with massive losses, on Friday said it was in talks to cancel orders for six Boeing 777 "Dreamliner" aeroplanes.

The airline industry worldwide has been hit by rising oil prices last year as well as the global economic downturn, which squeezed passenger numbers and drove up ticket prices, forcing companies to seek new tie-ups to cut costs.

The number of domestic passengers in India fell 15 percent in April from a year earlier, according to Civil Aviation Authority figures.