Friday, November 18, 2011

Comtel passengers stranded midway, held to ransom for paying more.

Travelling by budget airlines is always fraught with some woes but this is a new type not heard of earlier.   A travel becomes enjoyable when you get a proper seat and the journey is comfortable.  Those of us who do not travel frequently tend to plan things in advance, think much about the travel and take all that is necessary.  There are some who travel so frequently that ‘it is just another day’ for them. 

There are lots of buses plying to various cities inside Tamilnadu and many do prefer travelling in ‘omnibuses’.  Sometimes you board a bus say in Madurai, for coming to Chennai and dose away – may be 45 minutes later, you are half-awake thinking that you are cruising towards Chennai and perhaps near Trichy but learn to your dismay that you are in the same place where you boarded…… some uncanny operators move their bus, go around and come to the same place for picking up more passengers.  I have even heard from some of my friends who regularly travel that they would even bargain the fare on lean seasons and pay less than even the scheduled fare !!  - in festive Seasons like Deepavali, Pongal, when people go their native places, every thing is at a premium and bus owners and operators make a fortune hiking the tickets many a times more than regular rates.  People do not have much option – again there could be differential fares for different people depending their time of purchase and the expression of need !!

Railways is far better – but there are touts who can sneakily arrange tickets, sometimes in somebodyelse’s name – and the person travelling could get caught by the TTE and forced to cough up extra rupees or denied travel itself.  Airlines are the best, or so one thought till I read this newsitem in Guardian & Dailymail.  Recently, Kingfisher was in trouble and had to suspend its operations and cancelled flights troubled many passengers who had booked their tickets earlier for travel.  Can you ever imagine a situation of the bus stopping midway, only to tell passengers that they are running on deficit and that passengers will have to collectively pay xxxx amount for completion of journey and reaching destination !!

In a different incident elsewhere, it is reported that a group of holiday makers from India were held to ransom by the Airline stating that it would not complete the final leg of a flight to Britain unless they paid an extra £20,000.  The passengers were told that they and their luggage would be removed from the plane if they did not pay up.  It should have been an disgusting experience for those who reportedly were held for six hours on the tarmac in Vienna, Austria when their chartered Comtel Air flight from Amritsar, Punjab,  India stopped off to refuel.  More than 180 passengers were  told to disembark because the airline had "ran out of cash to fund the last leg of the trip’ and had to pay extra for the trip.  

Those passengers had been left stranded on the tarmac when cabin crew announced during a refuelling stop that Austrian carrier Comtel Air had 'run out of cash'.  The travellers had been returning to Birmingham on a chartered flight from Amritsar, India, when the airline's money woes became apparent during the stopover at Vienna airport.  According to reports, the furious passengers were told gather £20,000 in cash between them to get back to Birmingham after enduring a delay in Vienna because of Comtel Air's unpaid bills.  They initially  refused to get off the plane and were told that the flight would only return to Birmingham if € 23,400 (£20,005) was handed over.  Austrian police were called to the aircraft during the six-hour stand-off, which only ended when passengers were escorted to cashpoint machines that ran out of money.

It is reported that more  than 600 people on four different flights are thought to have been embroiled in the fiasco which started at the northern Indian city at the weekend. Another Comtel flight from Vienna was said to be 'delayed indefinitely'.  Comtel Air's website was  'down for maintenance' and hence no official details were made available of the fiasco.  Comtel Air had been operating flights from Birmingham to Amritsar, specialised in executive aviation and owned a Dassault Falcon 2000 business jet. It had only started the commercial route from the UK to Amritsar at  the start of last month, using a leased Boeing 757.

There are further reports that all the three Comtel Air flights that were scheduled to leave Birmingham airport in the airline's regular slots last Friday, Saturday and Sunday were cancelled. The airline told Birmingham Airport that the cancellations were for 'operational reasons'.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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