Following last night's announcement that XL Airlines has gone into administration many holiday flights have been cancelled and the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) and the travel industry are working together to protect customers of the XL Leisure Group UK.
Luckily for skiers & boarders winter flying hasn't started yet, and XL wasn't operating a dedicated ski programme; however there could still be an impact for winter clients. A number of UK operators used XL for charter flights to the main ski destinations, including Chambery, Lyon, Grenoble, & Geneva airports.
After the success of last winter's season & with some time to go before the first snowfalls, tour operators should be in a position to reorganise flights for the winter without there being a huge impact on holidaymakers looking forward to the snow. Many schedules are expected to remain unchanged or with very small differences.
And skiers who have booked their travel through a bonded tour operator or agent will continue to have financial protection anyway, if ever the impact of XL's demise is wider reaching. At this stage we are thankfully not aware of any ski operators who have been greatly affected by this situation.
This incident does, however, demonstrate the value of booking through a bonded operator, or in the very least purchasing flight tickets with a credit-card which may provide refunds in such cases; or buying comprehensive insurance cover. In most cases protected passengers would get a refund for their losses, even though the holiday may not go ahead.
Booking independently, through several parties, can be risky through lack of bonding, however the demise of only one part of the holiday may be easier to re-arrange, if perhaps more expensively had nothing gone wrong.
Bonding for XL's passengers
The ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) is a financial protection scheme for UK tour operators. Those holiday makers who have booked through an XLUK tour operator will be covered by the ATOL's protection and will be able to finish their holiday and fly home without incurring any further charges. Those passengers who booked through an alternative UK tour operator will similarly be covered by the tour operator, but should contact their operator directly.
However, those who bought tickets from XL Airways through xl.com, xl call centres or a travel agent, an estimated 10,000, are not covered by the ATOL scheme though the CAA will endeavour to repatriate customers with the minimum delay but a charge will be made for the new flights.
General information on the situation for XL's passengers currently abroad:
This morning's press release said: "The CAA will make arrangements for those customers currently abroad who booked their holiday or flight with an ATOL tour operator to complete their holiday and fly home. All future departures with the XLUK tour operators and XL Airlines have been cancelled. Customers due to travel from the UK are advised not to go to their departure airport. Tour operator customers will be able to claim a full refund from ATOL."
In the meantime tour operators are making it their priority to find flights for those guests travelling today and this weekend. Mark Warner, for example, ask that those summer passengers with holidays booked for after the 19th September delay contacting them until Monday 15th September and wish for customers to "please rest assured that Mark Warner is doing everything that can be done to source an alternative flight for your holiday."
At this time cancelled flights are only directly affecting travellers who wish to fly in the next week.
Directly affected tour operators (part of the XL Group):
- The Really Great Holiday Company PLC - ATOL 3827 - which traded as: Cruise City
- Excel Holidays
- The Florida Skytrain
- Transatlantic Vacations
- Travel City Direct
- Travel City International
- Freedom Flights Limited - ATOL 5296
- Aspire Holidays Limited - ATOL 6536
- Kosmar Villa Holidays PLC - ATOL 1760 - which traded as: Kosmar Holidays
Contact information for ATOL customers:
- The ATOL website at www.atol.org.uk has advice for people abroad and people who have booked holidays with the Group. It will be regularly updated as more information becomes available on new arrangements for inbound flights. People who have booked but are yet to start their holiday should also speak to their travel agent
- The CAA will be setting up an emergency helpline from 06.00 on 12 September. Customers are asked to check the ATOL website before telephoning because the answers they need are likely to be found there, and to call only if there is an emergency
- Customers abroad: +44 (0) 2891 856547
- Customers in the UK with advance bookings: 0870 5900927
XL Airlines, the UKs third largest package holiday group, went into administration last night. The move was made as a result of changing fuel prices and the recent economic down turn.
As a result the joint administrators are unable to trade and all flights operated by the companies are cancelled and the aircraft have been grounded.
In previous seasons XL have provided a number of charter flights to the UK's ski operators into destinations like Chambery, Lyon, Geneva & Grenoble. Skiers should be assured there is time for any operators using XL to make alternative arrangements to be made by the winter, with ski travel options being distributed across multiple carriers.
We will bring you further information about how this might affect the ski industry shortly.
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