Updated: Oct 1
Other than actually earning a living from the proceeds, what I miss most during this global no-fly period, is the fodder provided by airlines, passengers and other related parties moving the benchmark from the sublime to the ridiculous.
In the good old days where some 30,000 flights operated daily , there was always a story to tell that would make one shake their head in bewilderment.
These days, we’ve got to do a little digging as to what happened in the past in order to get a chuckle out of the antics.
So sit down, buckle up, and enjoy.
Lal Dadrah of Amritsar India graduated from the School of Hard Knocks a while back with 2 very valuable lessons that will probably stick with him for a while.
The 1st was that mid-November’s not a particularly great time of year to visit Birmingham England and the 2ndwas that if your OCD forces you to make the journey – perhaps stay clear of an airline headed by Dick Fluck..
Dick Fluck it seems, was listed as the head monkey for an airline calling itself Comtel, an Austrian based outfit with 2 airplanes at it’s disposal.
At it’s disposal however is not the same as actually owning the 2 airplanes.
No – that distinction goes to a Madrid Spain company called Mint Aviation who owned the 2 old birds that will factor into this story we’ll eventually get around to telling.
Neither of these 2 outfits however were the companies whose name appeared on the tickets sold to the hapless passengers – THAT distinction goes to Skyjet and Astonbury – 2 British firms that on November 15th, folded quicker than a Chinese made camp cot.
On the morning of November 15th, Lal and 230 of his fellow travellers boarded the Comtel/Mint/Skyjet/Astonbury flight in Amritsar with the goal of arriving in Birmingham some 10 hours later.
Armed with web receipts for the flight, few could contain their giddiness in anticipation of experiencing rain for the next 6 months in beautiful downtown Birmingham.
Except of course for Bubba Johnson seated in 21D who would soon discover that his internet flight booking skills weren’t going to get him home to Birmingham Alabama quite as soon as he’d hoped.
For most, the 1st sign that something was a tad amiss came when passengers noticed after landing that everyone on the ground looked like cast extras from The Sound Of Music.
Snow capped mountains at the edge of the runway coupled with the announcement “Welcome To Vienna” added to the mystery as well.
It was when flight attendants starting passing the hat to cover fuel and other misc. items that some minor concern began to set in.
Except for Bubba who came to realize that mama was really gonna give him a whoopin if he missed Turkey Day.
As the story began to unfold, it seems that Comtel and/or Mint/Skyjet/Astonbury etc etc owed a few folks a few dollars.
Some creditors went so far as to suggest Comtel had Flucked them over and thus decided to hold the aircraft and passengers somewhat captive until an amount of $40,000 was collected in cash- and turned over to the Viennese authorities.
As such, passengers were advised the only way they’d be permitted to continue on to Birmingham would be to pony up.
Some, having seen Birmingham’s charms in late November, gave serious consideration to staying on the ground in Vienna.
In the end – they complied.
A day late and a few dollars short, the Comtel 757 landed in Birmingham and before disembarking presented each passenger with autographed photos of the crew to commemorate 2 noteworthy milestones :
-the 1st recorded hi-jacking of passengers by an airline
-the last flight sold through Skyjet who unceremoniously shut down a few days later.
Ironically Comtel’s website which stayed up and running for a few days after the blessed event, had the caption (and I kid you not here folks) *Enjoy our unique service during your flight*
Mint Aviation, the owner of these 2 aircraft, apparently have reclaimed the aircraft and are currently retrofitting them with a new type of seatback in-flight entertainment system that’s coin operated.
It shows the usual route maps, 4th run movies, day old sandwich selections etc., but a new feature which will allow passengers to view the amount of debt accrued by whichever outfit decides to charter out these birds in the future.
When it reaches a certain level- a fuel gauge will appear on the screen and as the needle edges closer to *E*, passengers will have the opportunity to insert coins into the slot to keep the airplane flying.
As for Bubba?
Seems he made it home in time for the holidays and is currently Google planning his next trip to Australia.
Surely he’s aware there’s more than 1 Sydney?
*You can’t make this stuff up folks*
We can (and often do) take creative licence to bring it from the sublime to the ridiculous on occasion however – see https://www.cnn.com/2011/11/17/travel/britain-passengers-cash/index.html for the non humour version.