Angry soccer fans left up in the air after losing thousands

2010-07-11 09:58

Irate passengers, claiming that each of them had lost between R12?000 and R50?000 as a result of Wednesday night’s flight chaos at Durban’s newly built King Shaka International Airport, are demanding refunds from airlines.

Among the 600 passengers stranded when six Durban-bound flights were grounded were those on board kulula’s Flight MN603. They had spent money on flight tickets, World Cup semifinal tickets, accommodation and car rental.

Livid passengers disembarked at OR Tambo International Airport after their flight had returned to Johannesburg almost 40 minutes into their journey to Durban.

They immediately organised themselves into an action group while they were being ferried to the airport terminals.

Naeem Motala and his two friends, Akbar Gani and Ahmed Amod, were probably hit the hardest, losing about R48?500.

They had eight tickets worth R4?500 each and had intended to hand five of them to friends at the stadium.

“I had tickets worth about R40?000,” Motala said.

He called kulula, the Airports Company of SA (Acsa) and Fifa in an attempt to secure a refund, but his efforts proved to be futile.

Leon du Toit had 10 tickets, most to be delivered to his nine stranded friends in Durban.

“That’s R45?000 down the drain. Fifa refused to refund the tickets, saying it was not their problem,” Du Toit said.

Leon Roper said he had lost about R16?000.

“How can Durban host the ­Olympics if they can’t accommodate all the planes for a World Cup semifinal?” he said.

He called the Durban airport at halftime, but the planes had still not landed.

kulula’s executive manager, Heidi Brauer, said the Airports Company of SA was responsible for the pandemonium.

“We are looking at lodging a claim against Acsa on our behalf and on behalf of our customers. We encourage customers to deal with Acsa directly.
“Acsa has claimed no responsibility, which is ridiculous.

“They have also set aside R400?000 as compensation, which is also ridiculous,” said Brauer.

Acsa’s managing director, Monhla Hlahla, said in a statement that the company’s willingness to reimburse fans was not an admission of liability.

“No amount of money could ever adequately compensate the fans for having missed the opportunity to watch the World Cup semifinal.

“Whether Acsa is legally liable for any loss resulting from this unfortunate event is still to be determined,” Hlahla said.

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