An unceremonious termination of an agreement between Kingfisher Airlines and Korean Air left a Goa-bound family of four including two ailing octogenarians stranded at the Seoul airport on Monday.
According to flight bookings made by the Goa-based Chopras, they were scheduled to take a Korean Air flight from Seoul to Hong Kong on February 5 followed by a connecting Kingfisher Airlines flight to Goa with a stopover at Mumbai.
However, when Ramkishan Chopra reached the Seoul airport with his elderly parents and sister, Korean Air officials told them that the ticket was invalid since their interline agreement with Kingfisher had ended owing to defaults in payments by the domestic carrier. Such agreements allow airlines to book passengers on each other's flights.
"I was shocked because the Kingfisher Airlines website still showed our ticket was confirmed," said Chopra who had taken his parents to Seoul for critical medical treatment. His father Gangasharan Sharma, 85, underwent a brain surgery and mother Vinita, 80, underwent a spine operation. Korean Air officials asked Ramkishan to buy four new tickets worth $2000 for the journey he had already paid for. Ramkishan barely had any cash left with him after paying for his parents' medical treatment.
For the next six hours, the elderly couple was stuck on wheelchairs inside the terminal while Ramkishan made frantic calls to the Kingfisher call-centre.
Finally, a customer care staff from Kingfisher called him after he had reached a friend's house in Seoul City to spend the night. "They asked me to buy a budget airline ticket to qualify for an reimbursement," he said. Ramkishan bought a Thai Airlines ticket from Seoul to Hong Kong for $900. Kingfisher Airlines turned down his request for an upgrade for his parents for the journey from Hong Kong to Goa.
A Kingfisher Airlines spokesperson said: "There appears to have been some technical issue in this case. We are investigating the matter. We will take full responsibility to ensure that the guests reach their original destination," said the spokesperson. The spokesperson, however, did not comment on the termination of agreement with Korean Air and its impact on passengers on these flights.