‘It’s the only way of survival for airline companies’
New Delhi: Embattled corporate tycoon Vijay Mallya today appealed to the Central government to seriously consider declaring hijacking of planes as completely legal and allow airline companies to incorporate it as a formal business practice.
‘That’s the only way left for us to possibly make some money, as our operations don’t allow us to cover even essential buys, like a second luxury yacht for the CEO,’ Mallya ruefully said after the board meeting of the trouble-ridden Kingfisher Airlines.
Stating that the situation was ‘grave enough’ for him to personally take up the matter with the Civil Aviation Ministry, Mallya said ‘you can gauge the urgency of the issue based on the fact that I have cancelled my weekend party at Monaco. I think I will have to have the party on Monday at Hawaii’.
This is the price you have to pay for being a responsible CEO, he sighed.
Making a compelling case for declaring hijacks legal, Mallya said the time has to come to ‘stop the needless criminalisation of hijacks’.
‘The more I look at hijacks, the more I feel it cannot be a crime that should be left for others to commit,’ Mallya sagely said.
‘Anyway, what do hijackers do? Keep people in captivity without food and water in inhospitable conditions with sullen and surly minders around? Well, we have prior experience in this regard: we have run budget airlines where we make travellers endure much worse. We just want to leverage on this core competency of ours,’ Mallya explained logically.
‘We need not exclude hijacking on the grounds that it’s a crime. Instead, we need to include it on the grounds that it is a legitimate business strategy’.
Mallya said the modalities of a formal hijack working plan for the airline industry needed to be worked out with all the stakeholders. ‘We the CEOs and some airhostesses, who are vital cogs in this wheel, need to sit and discuss the nitty-gritty of the whole plan. We need a quiet place for our discussions. I think we will settle for New Zealand. Also, wine from Australia will be easily available there. Aussie wine is good for corporate strategising’.
Giving a broad sketch of his plan, he said ‘My personal theory is an airline company can be allowed to announce a ‘formal hijack’ only once a week. He added that it could be left to individual airlines to decide which of their flight service would be announced as ‘hijacked’.
‘We must take care to not over do it. After all, public money is involved here,’ he said, while clarifying the important point that whichever flight maybe declared hijacked, and whoever maybe inside it, it is the government that will have to pay the ransom amount.
The norms in the civil aviation industry are simple and clear: ‘‘if you make profits, you don’t pass it on to the government because in a democracy, the government is anyway you and people like you. And if you make losses you don’t keep the same with you, because it’s the same democracy and the government is actually you and people like you.’
If for some reason, the government rules don’t permit any payment as ‘ransom’, they can override this small technicality by providing the money simply under the tab: subsidy. ‘When you get down it, there is not much difference between a ransom and subsidy’.
Also, those passengers, who get to travel in hijacked flights, get frequent hijacker points which they can redeem against for tickets in the next flight to be hijacked, Mallya further explained his business plan. (This is the core of all modern business models: The incentive for staying a loyal customer is, well, you will have to stay a loyal customer).
Mallya asserted that in a true market economy, individual airline companies should be allowed to devise its own methods for its survival. ‘Much of the problems that we in the industry face are due to the fact that we aren’t allowed to choose the routes we would like to operate on. And there are many routes that cry for new flight services,’ he asked.
Asked to name one such route, pat came Mallya’s answer: ‘Between the city and the Bangalore airport. I mean, people would much appreciate if there is a flight service to Bangalore airport from Bangalore. The tickets, I tell you, will go for a premium.’
Mallya said if the government did not accede to the demand of declaring hijacks legal, airlines, like his, would have to go into emergency cost-cutting exercise, like doing away with one of the two engines of a plane. ‘I think we will be able to get the flights off the ground by filling their tyres with helium gas’.
Mallya concluded, ‘If this plan also doesn’t work, I think we have no other go but to hope for the biggest rescue for any loss-making venture: Takeover by Sahara Group’.
(Disclaimer: The Sahara Group, for the record, is a multi-crore rupee company which specializes in acquiring loss-making companies, and continue to professionally run them as loss-making outfits)