September 14, 2008

Virgin Boss Rescues Tourists

HOLIDAYMAKERS stranded by the collapse of an airline have started to return home.

More than 85,000 people, many from the North, were left without flights when XL Leisure Group went into administration.

But a rescue operation is underway to bring passengers home. And one delighted holidaymaker praised Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson for coming to the rescue.

Kayley Hunter and two friends flew home from Orlando, Florida, with Virgin after being informed of XL's collapse by their tour operator. The 23-year-old legal adviser from Darlington said: "Thank you to Richard Branson and his team, you were fantastic."

Other travellers from the same flight to Manchester also praised Virgin.

None of the travellers spoken to reported paying for the Virgin flight and said they presumed they were covered under their insurance.

Jayne Poulter, 43, from Newcastle, was travelling with her family of four.

The family had to make a detour before catching their replacement flight. She said: "We turned up at Sanford Airport and there was someone from XL there.

"They said if you turn around now you'll get the Virgin flight from Orlando."

The Civil Aviation Authority vowed to repatriate those affected, while airlines and travel agents also pledged to do everything they can to get people home.

The aviation regulator said most holidaymakers hit by the collapse will be flown back on their original departure date.

Specially-chartered flights have been brought in, while spare seats on already scheduled flights are being used.

As well as the 75,000 customers covered by the Atol scheme to protect passengers, there will be room for 10,000 people who booked XL flights independently, although they will have to pay.

(c) 2008 Sunday Sun - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.