September 16, 2008

XL Tourists Finally Get to Fly Home


TOURISTS caught up in the collapse of airline XL are now being brought home.

More than 85,000 people, including an estimated 2,000 from the North East, found themselves without flights when XL Leisure Group went into administration on Friday.

A further 200,000 saw their upcoming holidays affected by the failure of the UK's third-largest tour operator as hundreds of flights were grounded.

The Civil Aviation Authority has launched an operation to bring the travellers back to Britain.

North East holidaymakers began arriving at Newcastle Airport on Saturday.

And people who had been due on a flight from Skiathos, Greece, eventually returned home on Sunday after a two-day delay.

Other flights were diverted to Manchester and Leeds Bradford airports, meaning passengers had long journeys back to Tyneside.

Eleven flights from Newcastle International Airport were affected, mostly from destinations in Greece, Turkey and the Canary Islands.

More sunseekers landed home last night after flying from Corfu.

They spoke of their relief after a 12-hour delay.

Vera Cairns heard the news about XL's collapse as she was having breakfast at a beach bar with her family.

The 54-year-old cleaner from Catchgate, Stanley, admitted it had put a downer on their break.

She said: "It did ruin the experience a little bit, but we knew that we would be okay as we had bought a package holiday with XL. We were only delayed 12 hours, which really isn't really that bad compared to other people.

"The reps told us not to worry and that we would be able to keep our rooms for all the holiday. We didn't have to buy new tickets for our flights."

Alison Howard, who had been on holiday with her husband Barry, said she found out about XL from a friend.

The 45-year-old, from Ashington, said: "I got a text and then a call an hour later about it. The apartment owner had a call from the reps to let everyone know.

"The reps were absolutely brilliant and let us know what was going on so it wasn't too stressful."

Following the collapse of the airline, which flew to 13 destinations from Newcastle International Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority vowed to bring home everyone affected.

Airlines and travel agents also pledged to do everything they can to get people home.

A spokeswoman said: "Initially there were delays for passengers due to return home over the weekend while we tried to get things organised.

"But now we are aiming to get passengers home on the day they were booked to travel."

A spokeswoman for Newcastle Airport said: "The CAA is handling the replacement flights and we are working with them to bring passengers home."

XL has blamed the rising cost of fuel and the credit crunch for its collapse.

People who booked directly with the company could be thousands of pounds out of pocket, while the firm's 33 staff based in Newcastle have lost their jobs.

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