The travel industry is traditionally reluctant to discuss the impact of tragic events on business, but forward bookings are believed to be running at around 20 percent below expected levels.
The travel industry is traditionally reluctant to discuss the impact of tragic events on business, but forward bookings are believed to be running at around 20 percent below expected levels.

Passengers told to pay or stay grounded

By TIM MOYNIHAN AND BEN GLAZE Time of article published Nov 21, 2011

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Authorities are seeking reassurances from an airline after passengers claimed they were forced into a whip-round to fund the remainder of their trip back to Britain.

Those on board said they were “held to ransom” for six hours on the tarmac in Vienna after a flight with Austrian airline Comtel Air from Amritsar in India stopped to refuel.

They told how they had to hand over £20,000 (about R240 000) to pay for the rest of the journey. More than 180 passengers, who should have arrived back in Birmingham on Saturday, finally got there on Tuesday night, according to reports.

Dalvinder Batra, from Oldbury, told reporters: “It is absolutely disgusting. There are still people stuck out there.”

Ranbir Dehal, from Wolverhampton, said: “We were escorted to the cash point to take money out. They said there was a deficit of nearly €24,000 and they gave us receipts.”

Reena Rindi, who was aboard with her two-year-old daughter, told reporters: “We wanted to go home. We'd been stranded for about three to four days. Who was going to take us home?”

She said passengers agreed to pay so they could fly to Birmingham and added: “We all got together, took our money out of purses - £130.

“The children under two went free.

“If we didn't have the money they were making us go one by one outside in Vienna to get the cash out.”

Comtel Air's director of passenger services Bhunpinder Kandra said: “I have heard what happened, it shouldn't have happened, and I will investigate why it happened.

“The people who had to pay the money will receive a refund.”

Asked if the company was going bust, he said: “There is no chance of that. Comtel is a very strong company, 16 years in Vienna.”

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “We are looking to see if people who bought their holiday in Britain bought it through an ATOL-licensed tour operator. If they did, that tour operator needs to step in to arrange new flights for them.” - Belfast Telegraph

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