Stricken Comtel cancels UK services

 

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

The move by Austrian-registered Comtel Air comes as some UK passengers are still stranded abroad, while others are battling to get their money back after being "held to ransom" on the Tarmac at Vienna airport earlier this week.

Only one of the two Comtel flights from the Indian city of Amritsar to Birmingham via Vienna took off last weekend.

With passengers stuck in Amritsar, those that did take off said they had to raise £20,000 to fund the rest of the trip from Vienna to Birmingham.

They were stuck at Vienna for six hours and the flight that should have got back to Birmingham on Saturday only arrived on Tuesday morning.

Today, a Birmingham airport spokeswoman said Comtel had told the airport that this Saturday's and Sunday's Birmingham-Amritsar return flights via Vienna had been cancelled.

"They said we would know in the next couple of days about flights after that," the spokeswoman added.

Passengers who booked for the Comtel flights as part of a package would be protected by the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol) scheme run by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) .

However, both the CAA and travel organisation Abta stressed today that some of those who had booked flight-only deals may not be financially covered.

Some of the 180 passengers stuck at Vienna who eventually made it to Birmingham described their ordeal.

Dalvinder Batra, from Oldbury, West Midlands, said: "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 euros and they gave us receipts."

Reena Rindi, who was aboard with her two-year-old daughter, said: "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."

Amarjit Duggal, from Great Barr in Birmingham, flew from Amritsar last week after scattering her mother's ashes.

She told the BBC that her father, sister and uncle were still there and did not know when they would be able to return home. She said it was very distressing as they were still in mourning.

She said: "They were due to leave Amritsar on Sunday at 10.30 in the morning," she said.

"They did not get the information as to what's happening with the airline."

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 Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are aware that a number of British nationals have been affected by difficulties with Comtelairlines flights from Amritsar to Birmingham via Vienna.

"We have been, and remain, in touch with the relevant authorities including the airline for clarification on how British nationals due to fly in the coming days will be affected."

He went on: "Our current advice to anyone affected is to contact their tour operator, travel agent or the airline for further information and about possible alternative arrangements. We would also advise that they monitor our travel advice for India for any updates.

"We took a number of calls from distressed British nationals in relation to this issue and we have provided consular assistance to those who have sought it."

Later, Birmingham airport said the following Comtel Air flights had been cancelled:

* Friday November 18 - COE732 Birmingham-Amritsar at 4.15pm

* Saturday November 19 - COE702C Amritsar-Birmingham at 4:30am local time

* Saturday November 19 - COE732 Birmingham-Amritsar at 6.15pm

* Sunday November 20 - COE702C Amritsar-Birmingham at 5.30am local time.

An airport spokeswoman went on: "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 scheme.

"We expect the airline to clarify the situation regarding its flight programme going forward within the next few days."

She added: "Comtel Air has been operating from Birmingham to Amritsar since October, and has so far offered a successful operation to several hundred passengers.

"It is contracted by a number of UK travel companies to facilitate flights to Amritsar, via Vienna, from Birmingham and has a contractual arrangement with an approved airline to operate this service.

"Clearly, we are very concerned about this situation and understand the distress that this is causing those passengers directly involved and their loved ones.

"We stress that we are very disappointed that the operator is having these problems this week and we working hard to provide some clarity going forward."

Later, the CAA said Essex-based travel company Skyjet, which sold flights to Amritsar from Birmingham on Comtel Air, had ceased trading earlier today.

The CAA said that Skyjet, whose parent company was Astonbury Ltd, was an Atol holder and that the CAA would be able to get home around 200 people currently overseas with Skyjet.

The CAA also said that passengers who had booked Atol-protected trips with Skyjet but had not travelled would be able to claim a full refund from the CAA.

It added that it would ensure that all Skyjet customers due to fly home in the coming days were able to return to the UK, though this is unlikely to be on the flights they expected to return on.

Further information will be placed on the Atol website in the coming days to let people know how and when they should expect to return to the UK.

The authority added that all forward bookings with Skyjet were now cancelled and customers were advised not to go to the airport.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?