Last week, a charter flight operated by Comtel Air enroute from Amritsar, India to Birmingham, England landed in Vienna on a scheduled refueling stop at which point passengers were asked to raise $31,000.00 to buy fuel to continue their journey. Rumors had apparently spread about Comtel being insolvent so Vienna’s Airport operating authority did not extend credit to the airline for the fuel. Passengers were literally asked to combine their cash and were also permitted to go to ATM’s to withdraw funds in order to pool enough “gas money” together. Passengers were allowed off the airplane 1 at a time to visit an ATM (Do ATM’s even hold $31,000?). On board, passengers were able to scrape together approximately $200.00 among their loose change.
One of the crew members was quoted as saying “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.”
How’s that for a for a cabin announcement!
It took passengers 6 hours to pony up the gas money so they can continue onward.
Comtel issued a statement saying everything is fine, however airport operating authorities in England are saying that Comtel flights through this weekend have been canceled.
Meanwhile back in Amritsar later on Tueday, it was reported that yet ANOTHER Comtel Air Flight was asking passengers for an additional $200 each just prior to boarding to cover additional expenses to get the plane airborne.
Lets take a moment and reflect on our own airline industry. As much as there is to criticize of our favorite airlines, having to pay for things that were once complimentary such as checked luggage and the wonderful inflight cuisine, never, ever have we been asked to pitch in for fuel while sitting on the tarmac in order for our journey to continue. Considering its Thanksgiving, that is something to be thankful for!