Comtel Air Amritsar to Birmingham passengers to be helped

Comtel Air passengers arriving at Raja Sansi International Airport in Amritsar shortly after the route starts Comtel Air started operating its Birmingham to Amritsar route in October

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Flights are being arranged on BMI to help passengers return home from India after the collapse of a UK-based travel agency.

Austrian airline Comtel Air cancelled all its flights between Amritsar and Birmingham on Thursday when Skyjet in Essex said it had filed for bankruptcy.

The flight cancellations have left about 180 people stranded in India.

Passengers are being offered special rates on BMI. The UK Civil Aviation Authority has agreed to refund them.

Plane grounded

Nick Stevenson from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: "What we are doing with those people now is organising special fares on BMI flights back to England that they will be able to take and then claim money back from the Civil Aviation Authority to repay for that."

One of the passengers filmed the moment the airline asked for £23,000 to complete the journey

A Comtel Air flight travelling from Raja Sansi International Airport in Amritsar to Birmingham Airport was grounded on Tuesday when the plane stopped in Vienna to refuel.

Passengers said in order to continue their journey they were asked to raise up to £23,000 between them to help pay for the plane's fuel costs.

Lal Dadrah, who used his mobile phone to film the moment the crew asked for the money, said passengers had been "held to ransom".

He said: "It was surreal. I couldn't believe it was actually happening. It was something that would happen in a film, not in reality... forced to pay for the petrol for the aeroplane."

Comtel Air said it was owed money by Skyjet UK, one of its travel agents, and had not been able to pay its carrier for two weeks as a result.

Atol protection

The Spanish carrier Mint Lineas Aereas said on Thursday it was stopping services for Comtel Air due to "unresolved financial questions".

It emerged later on Thursday that Astonbury Ltd, trading as Skyjet UK, announced it had ceased trading.

The Essex-based company was registered with the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol), which the CAA runs.

Sandwell Council's Trading Standards team has announced it is advising people concerned about cancelled flights to Amritsar.

The council's cabinet member for neighbourhoods, Councillor Derek Rowley, said trading standards officers would be helping to put people in touch with the CAA and giving advice on consumer rights.

He said: "It's a difficult situation. Trading Standards are receiving calls from people who are worried - either about friends or family who haven't been able to get back from India, or because they have flights booked on a Comtel flight to Amritsar in the future.

"We are putting them in touch with the Civil Aviation Authority who are now organising flights to get people home from India."

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