Air passengers 'forced' to pay pilots to complete trip

17th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Passengers on board a flight from the Indian city of Amritsar said Thursday they were forced to collect money on board the plane to fund the remainder of their trip back to Britain.

Those on board said they were "held to ransom" for six hours on the runway in the Austrian capital Vienna after the flight with Austrian airline Comtel Air from Amritsar stopped to refuel.

Passengers said they were told they had to hand over £20,000 ($31,500, 23,500 euros) to complete the journey to Birmingham in the English Midlands.

More than 180 passengers, who should have arrived in Birmingham on Saturday, finally reached the city late on Tuesday, according to the Birmingham Mail newspaper.

Elderly women and children were among the passengers.

One passenger, Dalvinder Batra, told the paper: "It is absolutely disgusting. There are still people stuck out there."

Ranbir Dehal 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 travelling with her two-year-old daughter, told Channel 4 News: "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."

Konrad Bhupinder, managing director of Comtel Air, blamed the tour operator Skyjet, which reserved the flight tickets, for the problem.

"We only organise flights if the tickets have been paid for," he said, adding that in this case Skyjet had not paid the airline for the flights.

The flight had been due to take off on Saturday but was delayed to Tuesday because of a conflict between Skyjet and Comtel Air, which had hired the plane and the crew from a Spanish company, Mint Airways.

© 2011 AFP

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