Comtel Air, the airline which this week was accused of holding nearly 200 passengers 'to ransom' by demanding a £20,000 whipround to pay for fuel, has announced that is has suspended all flights in and out of the UK.
The decision to stop flights, which run between Birmingham and Amristar in India, has been announced despite the fact that hundreds of British passengers may be stranded in India.
On Tuesday, 180 angry air passengers on a flight from India to Birmingham were forced to
raise £20,000 between them after their airline ran out of cash to pay for fuel mid-flight.
The passengers bound for Birmingham International Airport were held in Vienna, Austria, after their chartered Comtel Air flight refused to go any further without the extra payment.
According to passenger reports, the airline was so strapped for cash that it couldn't afford to pay taxes and landing fees at Birmingham unless the passengers chipped in.
The stranded passengers, who had each paid around £500 each for their flights, were told to disembark but they refused, and a stand-off ensued.
The fiasco only ended six hours later when they were escorted to a cashpoint to withdraw money to give to Comtel, a Vienna-based airline.
Some passengers, many of who were elderly and had no cash, said they had to borrow from relatives and friends.
Passenger Rnanbur Dehal, from Wolverhampton, told the Daily Mail: 'We were escorted to the cash point to take out money.... They lined up the buses and said we would be removed from the plane if we didn't pay up.'
Fellow passenger Tarlochan Singh, also from Wolverhampton, told the Birmingham Mail: "Nobody has told us anything. They wanted all the money in cash. Everyone was furious. That is why we had the sit-in."
Austrian police had to intervene after tempers flared during the stand-off.
More than 600 people on four different flights are believed to have been embroiled in the fiasco - and many are still stranded.
The airline only started its charter flights to Amitstrar, India, from Birmingham in October.
Speaking to the BBC, Comtel Air director of passenger services said the incidents were being investigated said: "the people who had to pay the money will receive a refund."
Revealed! The worst airlines in the world
Passengers stranded as 'whipround' airline grounds flights
Reviews on AirlineQuality.com included this scathing comment: ‘Incredibly uncomfortable seats, poor food, rude staff who just wanted to get the meal service out of the way so they could stand at the rear of the plane and chat amongst themselves.’ Hopefully, the merger with British Airways will mean there's a hope for a rise in standards.
These less-than-glowing reviews on AirlineQuality.com say it all: ‘…nothing could be as bad as EgyptAir. Dirty aircraft with disinterested crew. The toilets were filthy, food looked like leftovers from other airlines. The seating is exceptionally cramped and uncomfortable’ and ‘I find the staff on EgyptAir lazy and unprofessional.’ And apparently the seats aren’t cheap either!
Old planes and unexplained flight delays were among the common complaints about this Chinese airline. Customers alternately complained that flight attendants don’t speak English (although some praising the communication skills). Other comments included criticism of the poor quality of the food and service.
Oh dear, customers are not happy with their experience of this airline or its website. Shabby planes, flights being delayed, rescheduled or rerouted without notice or explanation. And the airline got the lowest score for its food. Altogether a big thumbs down from reviewers.
Chinese air travel isn’t coming off well according to Zagat findings. Customer comments on AirQuality.com on this airline’s service included: ‘…poor food, warm drinks, inadequate English language skills of crew (including nonsensical inflight announcements), non-reclining seats… All in all, quite an unpleasant series of flights’ and ‘Be careful to check and re-check your booking, as flight times can (and did) change without notice. You can miss your flight very easily.’
Described by one reviewer as ‘the airline from hell’, you’d be forgiven for giving it a wide berth unless it ups its game considerably! Reviews included: ‘First, the airline could not fine my reservation… then they determined that "someone" had canceled it in spite of my confirming it on their website’; ‘The worst thing was the attitude of US airways staff and the lies they told us. I wouldn't touch them again with a barge pole’ and ‘Most of the staff are rude and unfriendly… All in all a terrible experience. Never again.’
It was the terminal at the airport that came in for most criticism here. Customers commented on the poor bus transfer to the gate and unfriendly staff. Another criticism was that the elderly and passengers with children weren’t properly catered for. And one reviewer said the pilot announced: 'Sorry, we do not fly today. The plane is broken'.
The general stampede for unallocated seats was a common criticism for easyJet. One customer complained: ‘It would cost the easyJet computer nothing to allocate seats and alleviate the impression one is fighting for a place on a bus that may be overfull’; another said: ‘My biggest concern was the feeling of chaos inboard. The safety demo audio was played at a very low volume, and people were speaking on their mobile phones during the safety demonstration, cabin crew seemingly not giving a damn.’ Other complaints include overbooked flights and disorganised service...
Lack of food on international flights, a poorly kept plane and bad service generally were all at the heart of the complaints by travellers. TOne passenger pulled no punches with the comment: ‘My trip from Lima, Peru to Boston was the biggest nightmare of my life next to getting all four of my wisdom teeth pulled while conscious’; another, commenting on the policy of charging for hand luggage, said: ‘Robbing people as they board your airplane should really help your already abysmal tardy departure record…’ and a third summed up with: ‘They charge for everything, their agents are rude, and the flights are overbooked, late, not that clean, and just an awful experience.’ Biggest gripe of all was the charges the airline makes for hand luggage.
It was not hard to find reviewers with a poor opinion of the budget airline. An overriding impression was one of being ripped off. As one customer commented: ‘I've concluded that Ryanair is nothing but a great big social experiment to see how arrogant an airline can get and how low customer service can be pushed before the said airline starts to lose money….We keep coming back to this horrid airline with its miserable service in hope that we'll save a Euro or two. Reality is that we probably end up spending more money than we would have if we opted for a better airline’, while delivered a damning verdict: ‘They have to be the most customer unfriendly company I have come across. Dirty plane when we eventually got on, tired looking and dishevelled cabin crew. What more can I say - a shocking experience that I never wish to repeat.’