September 14, 2008

Family Holiday in Jeopardy Following Collapse of Tour Operator

By Catherine Oakes; Caroline Jones

A Derbyshire family have been left angry and upset after being told via a text message that flights for a long-awaited holiday were cancelled.

The Sharpe family had been due to fly out to Tenerife last night but were among thousands of holidaymakers left in limbo following the collapse of tour operator XL Leisure Group.

Yesterday news broke that XL, which runs 14 flights out of East Midlands Airport each week, had gone into administration after being hit by rising fuel costs and the economic downturn.

XL, which owns Kosmar, Aspire,, Freedom Flights and Travel City Direct, grounded all flights, leaving passengers stranded at airports both in the UK and abroad.

Dawn Sharpe, of Springwood Drive, Oakwood, expected to jet off for two weeks in the sun with husband Matthew, two-year-old daughter Maisie and parents-in-law Eddie and Carol at 4.30pm yesterday.

But instead they received a text message saying Freedom Flights, through which they had booked, was part of the XL company.

The 38-year-old said: "We were all packed and everything.

"The message didn't say the flights had been cancelled and just told us to look on the website. When we did we saw all flights have been grounded.

"We tried to call the operator but it was just constantly engaged.

"It was a holiday we had booked in April and my daughter was so excited. It was the first time we were due to go away with my parents-in-law too.

"We just didn't know what to do."

After hours of calling other airlines, Mrs Sharpe managed to find flights to Alicante on Sunday, where they will be staying at a villa owned by the family.

Passengers due to fly out to Tenerife from East Midlands Airport at 6.50pm yesterday were also affected, along with holidaymakers expecting to arrive back at the Castle Donington Airport from Kavalla, in Greece, at about 5.30pm yesterday.

Robert Burns, 47, of Grosvenor Street, Osmaston, was due to fly to Crete with wife Barbara and friends Bharat Chahan and Bozenka Burgum on Tuesday.

The self-employed plasterer paid pounds185 for the flight from East Midlands Airport, which was also booked through Freedom Flights.

They have managed to find alternative flights at a cost of pounds318 each through Thomas Cook.

Mr Burns said: "We were shocked as you see this kind of thing happening all the time to companies but we didn't think it would affect us. We're fortunate we could get another flight because so many others might not be able.

"It's been a nightmare to deal with."

Since the news broke, other airlines have stepped in to help get people stranded abroad back to the UK.

Castle Donington-based BMI Baby was among the first to be drafted into the help by the Civil Aviation Authority.

The first plane sent out by the company to rescue those affected left Heathrow, bound for Mahan in Minorca, at 6.30am yesterday.

Customers are being advised to call the Civil Aviation Authority's on 02891 856547 or visit

Those who paid by credit card or booked through a tour operator affiliated to the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing Scheme should get their money back.

People who used a debit card to book directly with XL, its website or one of its call centres will probably not be protected.

(c) 2008 Derby Evening Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.