Passengers stranded as 'whipround' airline grounds flights

Katy Holland
Passengers have a whipround to pay for fuel after airline runs out of cash
Passengers have a whipround to pay for fuel after airline runs out of cash


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.

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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."