Quarter of stranded XL tourists return as new travel firm shuts

THE travel industry was plunged into more chaos yesterday with the collapse of another tour company and the future of a major airline plunged into doubt. The Civil Aviation Authority revealed that Turkey specialist K&S Travel – which also operates as Travel Turkey – had ceased trading, stranding about 150 customers in Bodrum. They will be repatriated by the CAA because the north London tour firm was covered by the ATOL protection scheme.

In Rome the Italian government was last night in crisis talks trying to find a way to save flagship airline Alitalia.
There are fears it will have to ground flights today because of a lack of fuel.

Meanwhile, the £20million operation to bring home nearly 100,000 victims of Friday’s collapse of XL Leisure Group continued. At airports around the world, the CAA managed to organise 94 flights which will bring back 22,090 of the stranded tourists.It plans to bring home the rest of those booked through XL travel companies – who had ATOL cover – over the next fortnight as their holidays come to an end.

But about 10,000 tourists who booked direct with grounded XL Airways will have to pay the CAA hundreds of pounds for their flights home because they are not covered by ATOL. Worst effected areas are Greek Islands which are very famous amongst Britons as tourist destination.

Large number of British Tourists are reported to be stranded in Greek islands of Corfu, Crete, Santorini, Kos, Kefalonia, Rhodes.

Another 200,000 XL customers have lost holidays already booked, with about 20,000 of them having no cover.

The travel industry and airlines were also accused of profiteering from XL’s demise by cashing in on tourists trying to save holidays booked in advance.

One XL Airways customer, who asked not to be named, said she had tried to find flights to Holidays to Kefalonia where she still has a hotel reservation – and within an hour air fares had doubled. Her dream Holidays to Greece became nightmare since than as everything went out of budget by latest developments.

The latest quote from another operator would see them forking out an extra £1,800 on top of the £3,413 already paid.

But Gavin Leach, 31, and his fiancee Shian Llwyarch, 29, who feared their £70,000 wedding at Disney World, Florida, was ruined by the XL collapse, were celebrating yesterday after salvaging their trip. Thomas Cook offered to honour the bookings. XL announced on Friday it had called in administrators, blaming high fuel prices and a worsening economy for its demise.

But accountancy firm KPMG claimed it had been blocked from investigating alleged misrepresentations by “certain directors” that could have led to “material errors” in company reports.

British Airways boss Willie Walsh has predicted another 30 airlines will go under in the next four months. And yesterday analyst Douglas McNeill, of merchant bank Blue Oar Securities, said the aviation industry was contracting at the same rate as after the 9/11 terror attacks.

He added: “Sadly there are likely to be more insolvencies plus a decade’s worth of mergers in the next 12 months.”

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What One Pilot Would Really Like to Say from the Cockpit

“Before we take off, I would like to apologize on behalf of this and every airline for the hassle you just endured at the security checkpoint. As is patently obvious to any reasonable person, the humiliating shoe removals, liquids ban, and pointy-object confiscations do little to make us safer….”

Pilot Patrick Smith explains why the airline industry is on overload.

Welcome aboard. Our flying time this afternoon, not counting ground delays and holding patterns, will be two hours and thirty minutes.

Before we take off, I would like to apologize on behalf of this and every airline for the hassle you just endured at the security checkpoint. As is patently obvious to any reasonable person, the humiliating shoe removals, liquids ban, and pointy-object confiscations do little to make us safer.
Unfortunately, the government insists that security theater, and not actual security, is in the nation’s best interest. If it makes you feel any better, our crew had to endure the same screening as the passengers. Never mind that the baggage loaders, cleaners, caterers, and refuelers receive only occasional random screening. You can rest easy knowing that I do not have a pair of scissors or an oversize shampoo bottle anywhere in my carry-on luggage.

Just a moment.

Okay, well, as expected, we’ve received word of a ground stop. Our new estimated departure time is 90 minutes from now, subject to change arbitrarily, without warning.

And while we’re waiting, let me explain that these sorts of delays (and it’s not your imagination — late arrivals and departures have doubled since 1995) result not only from our antiquated air traffic control system but also from too many planes flying into and out of overcrowded airports. Passengers demand frequency-you want lots of flights flying to lots of cities. But this can be self-defeating, because many of these flights will be late — in some cases, very late. At airports near major cities like New York and Washington, D.C., the proliferation of small jets has added to the congestion. They make up nearly 50 percent of planes at some of our busiest airports yet carry only a fraction of overall passengers. This inefficient use of air and ground space is one reason we will be sitting here for the next hour and a half.

Once we’re airborne, flight attendants will be coming around with food and beverages for sale. I know many of you are irritated that an in-flight meal now costs $7 — on top of the $25 you just paid for an extra checked bag. Unfortunately, with oil prices skyrocketing and jets requiring as much fuel as ever (a coast-to-coast flight takes 8,000 gallons), it’s impossible for us to provide luxurious service and rock-bottom fares at the same time. We know that most of you are miserable and that you long ago learned to despise every aspect of air travel. But try, if you can, not to take your frustrations out on other passengers or the crew. The overall surly vibe is unpleasant for us too. And ridiculous as this might sound, look on the bright side.

Yes, there is a bright side: more choices and surprisingly reasonable fares. Domestically, you can now fly between almost any two airports in the country with, at worst, a single stopover. Internationally, transoceanic routes have fragmented, allowing people to fly direct from smaller hubs in the United States to points in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere. Nobody enjoys holding patterns or sitting on a tarmac, but in earlier days, the overall journey would have taken longer-and cost more.

It’s true that fares have risen sharply of late, but if they seem especially pricey, that’s partly because they remained so cheap for so long, with many carriers selling tickets below cost. Fares in 2006 were averaging 12 percent lower than in 2000, despite a 150 percent rise in jet-fuel costs.

Current fares cost about what they did in the 1980s. And let’s not forget that flying is much safer than it was in the past. Globally, there are twice as many planes carrying twice as many people as there were a quarter century ago. Although the raw total of crashes has risen, accidents are way down as a percentage of total flights.

I am well aware that airlines have become pariahs of the postindustrial economy. But it’s rarely acknowledged that despite recurrent fiscal crises, major staffing and technology problems, and constant criticism from the public, our carriers have managed to maintain a mostly reliable, affordable, and safe transportation system.

Hang in there, and our crew will let you know if and when our plane might actually take off. In the meantime, those $7 sandwiches are actually pretty good.