India's second-largest private carrier Kingfisher Airlines reported Thursday a higher third-quarter net loss but said the outlook for the industry was improving.
Kingfisher, owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, said its net loss increased to 4.19 billion rupees (91 million dollars) for the three months to December from a loss of 4.13 billion rupees the same period a year earlier.
Net income from operations fell 6.5 percent to 13.52 billion rupees in the third quarter with performance hit by fierce competition, it said.
But the company, known for its advertising slogan, "Fly the Good Times," and its five-star service, said the industry was seeing signs of recovery.
The figures came after the Singapore-based Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation last month forecast India's private airlines should return to profit in the next financial year following several years of bruising losses.
Kingfisher holds 21 percent of India's aviation industry, behind rival Jet Airways, which with its low-cost subsidiary Jet Lite has a 26 percent share, official data shows.
Passenger traffic for the aviation industry rose 30 percent in the three months to December from the same period a year earlier, according to the Kingfisher statement.
"Domestic traffic has shown a strong recovery in the quarter," Kingfisher said in its statement.
The firm said it achieved a record seat load factor of 80.2 percent in domestic operations in the December-ended quarter. Load factor represents the percentage of available seats filled with paying customers.
The industry has been hit by overcapacity and a sharp drop in passenger numbers due to the global economic slowdown.
The Indian aviation sector posted a combined loss of two billion dollars in the fiscal year to March 2009. Sector losses for this year are expected to hit 1.6 billion dollars.
India's private sector airlines are expected to return to profit in the new financial year beginning in April but troubled state-run Air India is seen staying in the red.
Kingfisher shares an alliance with rival Jet Airways which includes ground handling, network rationalisation and crew sharing but no exchange of equity.
Kingfisher shares fell 1.2 percent or 0.75 rupees to 61.8 after the earnings were announced.
Source: AFP Asian Edition