(Image source from: DarpanMagazine)
Almost a month after grounding of over Jet Airways flights and partly for temporary suspension of dozens of United Airlines, Air Canada, and Turkmenistan Airlines outbound flights, Indian’s are experiencing a biggest ever jet crisis.
Scores of Indians, including Punjabi passengers, have got ‘stranded’ in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia owing to the ‘air crisis’.
More than 5,000 Punjab-based passengers and around 15,000 people from rest of the country have got run aground in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Dubai and other parts of the Middle East as an outcome of unforeseen ‘shipwrecking’ of Jet Airways fleet on April 17.
The temporary suspension of Toronto-bound Air Canada and the United States-based United Airlines’ flights from New Delhi caused by clamping of the ban on flying over Pakistan air space in April has only worsened the situation resulting in a big seat capacity loss.
The worst-ever Indian ‘air crisis’ had started unfolding for the Punjabi and Indian air passengers and the country’s ‘once flourishing’ travel and tour industry, the moment the European Union (EU) had banned Turkmenistan Airlines flights from Amritsar to the UK and Germany in March on safety grounds.
The EU, the travel trade insiders revealed, has banned the Turkmenistan Airlines with directions to its management to first upgrade their existing planes and only then it would be allowed to fly to any European destination.
The Indian passengers stranded abroad are mainly those who had bought return tickets from Jet Airways and the Turkmenistan Airlines and also who were on family visits ranging between 15 days to four months are in a dilemma what to do next.
At least, I have not seen such a staggering situation in my over 40 year-long career in the travel industry. I am getting dozens of daily queries from foreign-stuck passengers. They have no option left but to buy new tickets at jacked-up prices (ranging between 30 and 200 percent) to return home from whatever destination they have got stranded in. No airlines are adjusting passengers of any other airlines,” said D.P. Sondhi, a leading Jalandhar-based travel agent and former president of the Punjab Travel Agents’ Association.
He said Jet Airways has not extended any word even on the air-fare refund to its passengers even as the Air Canada and the United Airlines were striving had to somehow ‘adjust’ their load with other airlines.
“There is no silver lining in sight as of now for a sharp decline in seat capacity. People who had gone abroad with Jet and even certain other airlines with a scheduled two to eight-ten weeks will have to buy new tickets for their return home. They can’t afford to buy these from here as availability is very limited and prices are too high,” said Romesh Bhatia, a veteran travel expert.
The Punjabi and Indian travelers who have bought round-fare or return tickets and who were either on a ‘family visit’ or were on vacation in Europe, have been hit hard for the most part.