Double blow for Kiss passengers

Hundreds of holidaymakers caught up in the collapse of Kiss Flights were those that had rebooked following the failure of Goldtrail last month, so face an extra lengthy wait for refunds.

The passengers had rebooked with Kiss after Greece and Turkey specialist, Goldtrail, ceased trading last month, when as many as 50,000 travellers were affected.

Some rebooked flights with Kiss, so were dealt a double blow by its collapse on Tuesday.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) advised passengers travelling after 6pm yesterday not to travel on booked flights but seek alternative arrangements and make a claim for a refund.

Those who had booked with Goldtrail and then rebooked with Kiss could face a lengthy wait.

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Clive Rees from Powys, Wales, had planned to travel to Turkey with Goldtrail. But when it collapsed he rebooked with Kiss Flights.

“I’m really disappointed. You wait for a long time for your holidays and it’s gone up in smoke. It’s tough,” he told the BBC.

“It puts us in a bit of a dilemma, whether we book for a third time with another company. We are undecided at the moment.”

“Some of the [other travel] companies have put their prices up on the misfortune of people like me, and thousands like me.”

Kiss sold flights to Greece, Egypt, Turkey and the Canary Islands and an estimated 70,000 holidaymakers have been affected by its collapse.

An estimated 13,000 travellers currently on holiday who had flown with Kiss would get home as normal, the CAA confirmed.

In addition, 1,500 Kiss customers left the UK on Wednesday on flights arranged for them by the regulator.

London-based Flight Options, which has owned Kiss since January last year, ceased trading at 1700 BST on Tuesday. It had bought Kiss from a company run by some former directors of XL Leisure Group.

Some 85,000 people were stranded when XL collapsed in September 2008.

Kiss is the 13th travel firm to collapse so far in 2010. The economic downturn, as well as a drop in Britons holidaying abroad has been blamed for some of the failures.

Some 33 tour operators failed in 2009. Many were budget firms working on tight margins.

Last week Europe’s biggest travel operator, TUI Travel, reported that booking volumes were about 10% lower in the three months to the end of June compared with last year.

It blamed airspace closures due to volcanic ash, good weather encouraging people to stay at home and uncertainty about the impact of government cuts.

Kiss concerns go back two years
It has also emerged that concerns about Kiss Flights stretch back two years.

The Cooperative Travel Agency decided not to sell Kiss tickets because of worries about its business model, the BBC reports.

Mike Greenacre, head of Cooperative Travel, told Radio 4’s PM programme he had raised his concerns with airline regulators when Kiss was formed.

He said: “We were sceptical, and that was really based on the fact that we didn’t think that the business model ... was sustainable.

“The product, the flights in particular, were just too cheap ... We took a commercial decision not to sell (Kiss) flights.”

The CAA denied there were any concerns that the company could collapse before yesterday.

A spokesman said: “There was absolutely no indication before yesterday afternoon that they were in financial trouble.