Passengers Kicked Off Planes
November 20, 2011 by staff
Hundreds of passengers traveling from India to Britain were stranded for six hours in Vienna when their Comtel Air flight stopped for fuel Tuesday. The charter service asked them to kick in more than $31,000 to pay for the rest of the flight to Birmingham, England.
The situation may represent a new low in customer care in an era when airline passengers are seeing long lines, long waits and few perks.
Britain’s Channel 4 news broadcast video showing a Comtel cabin-crew member telling 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.”
Some passengers said they were sent off the plane to ATMs in Vienna to raise the money.
“We all got together, took our money out of purses,” said Reena Rindi, who was aboard with her daughter. “Children under 2 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.”
Amarjit Duggal told the BBC she was flying from the Indian city of Amritsar after scattering her mother’s ashes.
The situation was highly unusual in Europe, where airlines are tightly regulated, said Sue Ockwell, a crisis-management expert at Travel PR.
“It’s a bit like, well, boarding a train and saying that you can’t go on because they’ve cut the electricity off because they haven’t paid the bill,” Ockwell said.
The passengers eventually reached Birmingham, but many expressed anger.
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