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19 students barred from boarding US-bound Air India flight

NEW DELHI: Air India on Sunday night stopped 19 Indian students from boarding its flight to San Fransisco after being informed from US authorities that the universities to which they had secured admission were under “scrutiny”.

Air India said the move was aimed at preventing the students from being “inconvenienced”.

The national carrier, which did not allow these students to board the flight at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, has decided not to accept students headed to these universities till the time it got clearance from Air India’s US office for their travel.

“Air India received communication on December 19, 2015 from the US Customs and Border Protection agency that two universities namely Silicon Valley, San Jose, California and North Western Polytechnic College, Fremont, CA are under scrutiny and students who arrived into San Francisco were not allowed to enter the US and were deported back to India,” an Air India statement said.

“In the past, we have witnessed that students who secured admission in those institutions have been deported to India as soon as they land there. To avoid embarrassment to them and save their money, we prevented them from boarding the flight,” an AI official said in Hyderabad.

Air India has offered full refund and waived all charges such as cancellation and rescheduling fee.

The airliner said it will start accepting students travelling to join these universities, at no additional cost, as soon as clearance is received from Air India’s US office.

The statement said so far 14 students who travelled on Air India flights to San Francisco have been deported. Students travel on a one-way ticket to the US and, in the event of deportation, incur huge expenditure to buy a ticket back to India on first available service. Further, seats are often not available on any airlines to travel back,” it said.

“Considering the situation, as a precautionary measure and to avoid inconvenience, students booked for travel to take admission to these universities are not being accepted on Air India flights,” the statement said.

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