Air India barred 19 students from boarding a flight to the US on grounds that the universities they had been admitted to were "blacklisted", forcing them to book tickets in other airlines.
"If the US Consulate after interviews issued us visas, we are entitled to our right to travel to the US. We are currently trying to book tickets in other airlines to fly to the US," said one of the students, The Hindu reported.
Air India on Saturday night stopped the students from entering the flight to San Francisco at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad. It also refunded the ticket fare to the students.
The airline authorities said that the students could have been deported as the universities -- Silicon Valley and North Western Polytechnic -- in which they have secured admission are under "scrutiny".
"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," PTI quoted an Air India official as saying.
It said that they have experienced similar instances in the past. According to the airline's statement, they received a communication from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency informing about the deportation of students who had taken admission in the two universities.
"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," the statement said.
It will allow students who have taken admission in the "blacklisted" universities to travel to San Fransico after getting clearance from the US office of Air India.
Both the universities that are under "scrutiny" have refuted the allegations and said that they have accreditation from the government.
Even the students who are trying to travel to San Fransisco said that they were assured that the "institutions have accreditation". One of students who had contacted other students currently enrolled in the two universities said, "All of them reassured us that the universities are functioning and safe for studies.