Two Northlanders booked to fly to India are out of pocket after they were forced to buy new tickets because their connecting flights with a financially beleaguered airline were cancelled.
Paramjeet Singh Sandhu and Rajinder Singh of Whangārei are among an estimated 250 mostly Kiwi travellers whose connecting flights either from Hong Kong or Singapore into Delhi on board India-based Jet Airways were cancelled over the past few weeks.
Debt-laden Jet Airways is struggling to stay afloat and its fleet shrunk from 119 to just 26 aircraft just before it defaulted on interest payments at the end of last year.
Since January, it hasn't paid salaries to a section of its staff, including pilots and engineers, and lessors have taken possession of planes after the airline failed to pay rents.
Sandhu and Singh booked one-way tickets through Flight Experts in Auckland and their connecting flight from Hong Kong to Delhi was on Jet Airways.
After the cancellation of their connecting flights, both bought new Thai Airways tickets through another travel agency but paid more than the original fare they paid to Jet Airways.
Flight Experts has applied for a refund but there was no guarantee Sandhu and Singh would get their money back given Jet Airways' financial situation.
The Northlanders are accusing Flight Experts of failing to inform them of Jet Airways cancellations but the travel agency owner said his staff were not informed by the troubled airline about their flight disruptions.
Sandhu's son Sam Sandhu said his father was pulled aside by a Hong Kong Airlines staff at Auckland Airport during check-in on April 1 and informed that he could not travel.
He was advised Jet Airways planes had not been flying for two weeks and for him to contact his travel agent.
"Flight Experts told us to buy another ticket while they sort out our refund. There were seven other families booked to travel to India who were also pulled aside. It was very embarrassing," he said.
Sam Sandhu said he has yet to hear back from Flight Experts despite being told a manager would call him.
He paid $570 for the original ticket and a further $760 for the new one before his father left for India on April 1.
Singh paid $600 then $1000 to travel on Thai Airways after he was also advised to book a new flight.
Fortunately he bumped into Sam Sandhu in Whangārei who informed him about the cancellation.
Singh flew out of Auckland yesterday.
"I rang Flight Experts and they told me since Jet Airways flights will stop flying from 19th April, there won't be any problem with my flight from Hong Kong as I am flying before the 19th.
"They also told me they were about to call me and provide an alternative flight but I said no Jet Airways flight has been going for two weeks and yet they didn't bother to let me know."
Flight Experts' owner Vyom Sikri said, from April 1, Jet Airways took control of bookings and even outsourced their call centres which made it impossible for travel agents to track flight disruptions.
He flew to India to meet with senior executives of Jet Airways over the issue and said his company continued to help affected customers apply for their refunds and to make alternative flight arrangements.