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Airline Demands Cash For Fuel From Customers

11/18/2011 08:14 AM ET

Airline Demands Cash Fuel - Airlines have already begun charging for food, drinks, seat assignments and baggage. Now one is demanding that passengers cough up extra cash for fuel. Hundreds of passengers traveling from India to Britain were stranded Thursday in Amritsar, India, by Comtel, which was asking them to kick in money to cover the extra cost and fees.

Passengers will not be allowed to leave for Britain unless they pay 10,000 rupees (about $200) each, Bhupinder Kandra, the airline’s majority shareholder, told the BBC.

It was not clear if the passengers were stranded on the plane or at the airport.

But that incident came just days after 180 other travelers flying the same route were stranded on a Comtel plane at a layover in Vienna until they could raise more than 20,000 pounds ($31,000) to fund the rest of the flight to Birmingham, England.

Footage from the first Comtel airline incident broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 news showed a cabin crew member telling passengers: “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.”

Channel 4 news said the crew told the passengers they would have to come up with 24,000 pounds ($38,000) between them. Some passengers said they were allowed to leave the plane to get to cash machines in Vienna to raise the money.

“We all got together, took our money out of purses — 130 pounds ($205),” said Reena Rindi, who was aboard with her two-year-old daughter. “Children under 2 went free, my little one went free cause she’s under 2. If we didn’t have the money, they were making us go one by one outside, in Vienna, to get the cash out.”

The plane then took off and reached Birmingham.

Kandra, Comtel’s majority shareholder, told the Associated Press from Vienna that travel agents had taken the passengers’ money before the planes left but had not passed it on to the airline.

“This is not my problem,” he said. “The problem is with the agents.”

But Kandra insisted that the company was solvent and that the “show will go on.”

“We have not run out of money,” he said. “We have enough.”

Airport officials in Birmingham, however, said Thursday that Comtel’s weekend flights had been canceled after other demands for cash to cover the extra fuel were not met.

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