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Airline asks for fuel money from passengers, travelers stranded

By Leigh Goessl     Nov 17, 2011 in Travel
It is no big secret airlines are already charging for every possibly necessary and optional amenity they can, such as checked baggage, food, drinks and seat assignments. The extra fees are par for the course nowadays if you want to fly.
One airline has taken fees a bit further and asked boarded passengers for gas money.
In what is being equated as a situation where people were "held to ransom," passengers got caught up in the midst of chaos as one tour company collapsed and other questions and fallout remains.
Footage from the Comtel airline incident was broadcast by Britain's Channel 4 news and published yesterday. The recording showed a cabin crew member saying to passengers, “We need some money to pay the fuel, to pay the airport, to pay everything we need. If you want to go to Birmingham, you have to pay.
The airline representative continued, "If you want to go to Birmingham, you have to pay. We can't do anything else."
A six-hour stand-off ensued. Passengers had already paid an average of $800 for individual tickets.
According to the report, airline crew members asked passengers to pay an additional £24,000 (about $31,000) in order to complete the scheduled last-leg of the trip from Vienna to the UK. After being stranded for several days due to an earlier delay, the passengers collectively came up with the money. In order to raise the funds, some passengers even left the plane, after police intervention, to go to cash machines to retrieve funds to give to the Comtel pilot.
The flight finally arrived on Tuesday instead of last Saturday. The original delay was "because of a conflict between tour operator Skyjet and Comtel, which had hired the plane and the crew from a Spanish company, Mint Airways," reported ABC News.
Skynet has reportedly collapsed and concerns have arisen over Comtel's future. According to Sky News, Comtel says they are fine.
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 collapsing, Kandra said, "There is no chance of that. Comtel is a very strong company, 16 years in Vienna."
Passengers who booked through an agent may be able to get their money back reports the Telegraph.
Four Comtel flights scheduled to fly this weekend have been canceled.
An 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. Those passengers overseas need to ascertain whether their travel arrangements are protected by the Atol [Air Travel Organisers' Licensing] scheme."
The Associated Press reports (courtesy of ABC News) "A similar Comtel situation was taking place back in Amritsar. Some 180 passengers on another Comtel flight were told they would not be taking off until they come up with 10,000 rupees (about $200) each, Kandra told the BBC on Thursday."
Currently it is unclear as to when that flight was supposed to have departed India. Reportedly British diplomats in India said passengers in Amritsar "were not stuck on the plane or at the airport" reports the AP. It is said many passengers are rebooking on other flights to return home to Britain.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) confirmed Skyjet's collapse and, according to a separate Channel 4 News report, said they will see to it the 200 people currently overseas would get home.
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