UK airline fiasco: more ordeal for NRI passengers



UK airline fiasco: more ordeal for NRI passengers London: Hundreds of Indian-origin passengers with valid tickets on the Birmingham-Amritsar flight operated by an Austrian airline have been stranded in the two cities after the company ran into financial difficulties, prompting calls for intervention by the British government.

Comtel Air, which ran chartered flights on the lucrative Birmingham-Amritsar sector, today cancelled more flights until November 20.

The four more flights cancelled on the route are: the COE732 Birmingham-Amritsar at 4.15 pm on November 18; COE702C Amritsar-Birmingham at 4:30 am and COE732 Birmingham-Amritsar at 6.15 pm -- both on on November 19; and COE702C Amritsar-Birmingham at 5.30 am local time on November 20.

Many passengers flying from Amritsar had a harrowing time over the last weekend when they were forced to cough up money totalling 23,000 pounds mid-way into their journey at Vienna before they could continue on the onward journey to Birmingham.

A furious Keith Vaz, senior Labour MP, called for intervention by the David Cameron government, and said it was "outrageous that consumers who in good faith purchase tickets are left stranded for days and then asked to pay additional money these actions can only be said to amount to air piracy".

He said he had asked the Transport Minister to intervene immediately to help the British citizens.

Bhupinder Kandra, Comtel majority shareholder, said money paid to travel agents had not been passed on to the airline, which led to the situation at Vienna airport.

The Birmingham-Amritsar section is a popular one due to the large population of Punjabi-origin living in Birmingham and other towns of the West Midlands.

The passengers who managed to pay extra money at Vienna and returned to Birmingham tried to contact the travel agent who sold them the tickets, for a refund, but no one was available.

It is uncertain if the extra money paid at Vienna would be refunded.

An airline on which passengers claimed they were forced to pay for refuelling to get to Birmingham has cancelled next weekend's services in and out of the UK, it has been announced.

A Birmingham airport spokeswoman said: "Anyone due to travel with the airline is advised to contact the travel company they have booked the flights with for advice.

PTI