September 12, 2008

Travellers Stranded As Airline Goes Bust


HUNDREDS of Northern Ireland holidaymakers were today dealt a further blow following the collapse of another tour operator.

People who booked holidays to Greece from Belfast with XL leisure group are facing massive disruption after the company went into administration and grounded all its flights

XL is the second carrier in just two weeks to go bust, claiming to have fallen victim to the high cost of fuel and acutely difficult trading conditions within the aviation industry.

The airline operated two routes from Belfast International Airport to Corfu and Rhodes, which were scheduled to leave on Monday and Wednesday next week.

There are also fears that hundreds of people from Northern Ireland who are already on holiday having booked flights with XL may face difficulties getting home.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph today, BIA spokeswoman Deborah Matchett said the airline was coming to the end of the season.

"Flights were scheduled for Corfu and Rhodes on Monday and Wednesday next week but the airline was running down to the end of the season and there weren't many flights left," she said.

"It was a fairly small operation from BIA, maybe a couple of hundred a week over a 12-week season, so at least no passengers were stranded at the airport today.

"There may be some Northern Ireland people in Greece at the moment who travelled there with XL, but at least they have a few days to make other arrangements to get home."

She added: "When Zoom went bust two weeks ago a lot of Northern Ireland people were affected. It was a big service for us, with around 25,000 passengers a year."

Ill-fated carrier XL also operated flights from Dublin to Spain and Greece. Four flights were scheduled on the routes for Friday.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said 85,000 people across the UK could be stranded abroad and 200,000 have made advance bookings with the company.

David Clover, a spokesman for the CAA, said it would be making arrangements to help customers of the four tour companies within the XL group.

In a statement on its website, the group said it had been hit by volatile fuel prices and the credit crunch.

Originally published by CLAIRE McNEILLY [email protected]

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