The UK’s third largest tour operator has called in the administrators leaving tens of thousands of British holidaymakers stranded abroad.
Crawley-based XL Leisure Group ceased operations at 3am this morning after the failure of last minute talks with its backers - Icelandic investment group Straumur and Barclays.All its planes have been grounded, leaving an estimated 85,000 people stranded abroad, while a further 200,000 have made advance bookings with the company, many of whom will lose out.
A further 200,000 who have made bookings with XL, which trades under names such as Kosmar, Travel City Direct and the Really Great Holiday Company, are set to have their holidays ruined, after all its flights were grounded.
In a statement XL blamed problems caused by “volatile fuel prices and the economic downturn”.
Its last flight, bound for Orlando, was cancelled whilst it was preparing for take-off at Gatwick airport.
Holidaymakers preparing to come home who booked their trips through XL’s tour operators, which also include Freedom Flights (not connected the Newcastle-based tour operator), Aspire Holidays and Medlife Hotel, are ATOL protected so will have return flights covered.
However those who booked flights directly through the company’s own airline, XL Airways, will have to make and pay for their own way home.
People preparing to leave for holidays with the group have been warned not to travel to airports. However the news came too late for many passengers, who were informed by a leaflet they were handed as they arrived, provoking angry reactions from holidaymakers who didn’t find out till arrival at the airport.
A spokesman for ATOL said XL’s collapse was “a huge failure” and promised the group would be working with other operators such as Thomson First Choice, to bring any stranded passengers home.
David Clover, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, which oversees ATOL, said: “We’re making arrangements and working very closely with the travel industry to organise repatriation flights.”
The collapse of XL could also cause problems for West Ham United, as the Premiership football club has a £2.5m-a-year shirt sponsorship deal with the group.