Further Progress On CAA Repatriation Flights Following XL Collapse - 3.15pm, 14 September 2008

Date: 14 September 2008

The Civil Aviation Authority announced that at midday today, 14 September, it has arranged a total of 94 repatriation flights, which have carried or will carry 22,090 customers of the failed holiday company XL.

The XL customers who have been repatriated to date are those who had completed their holidays and were due to return to the UK on Friday (the day of the XL failure) and this weekend. The CAA’s priority has been to organise the return of these passengers and this repatriation exercise should be substantially completed by the end of Monday.

The CAA is also working to replicate as closely as possible over the next couple of weeks the XL flight programme, to enable the approximately 30,000 people who are still on holiday to continue their holidays in the knowledge that their flight home will take place as close as possible to the original planned time. So that XL customers can complete their holidays, the exercise will continue for the next two weeks.

The flights are organised by the CAA for the customers protected under its ATOL protection scheme, and the CAA is also offering capacity to enable those passengers who had bought only a flight with XL Airways and so are not ATOL-protected to fly back to the UK at a reasonable price. These ‘flight only’ customers who are not ATOL-protected and so paying for their flight back to the UK are not obliged to use the CAA arrangements.

Richard Jackson, CAA Director of Consumer Protection, said: “The CAA, with extensive help from the travel trade, has been working very hard to look after XL’s customers. Our immediate challenge has been to repatriate holidaymakers due home in the days immediately following the company’s collapse. We are also working to ensure the timely return of those who are continuing their holidays over the next couple of weeks.

“No one who is an ATOL-protected customer should feel stranded. Whilst we’ve had some problems, including adverse weather conditions in the Caribbean making it difficult to position replacement aircraft, all customers will be able to return from their holidays, and as close to their planned flight times as possible. This is a massive logistical exercise, and its cost will be covered by the CAA’s ATOL funding arrangements.”

The flights currently organised by the CAA are from Alicante, Malaga (Spain); Athens, Corfu, Heraklion, Kalamata, Kavala, Kefalonia, Kos, Mykonos, Preveza, Rhodes, Skiathos, Zante (Greece); Bodrum, Dalaman (Turkey); Cagliari (Sardinia); Faro (Portugal); Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt); Grenada (Caribbean); Paphos (Cyprus); Las Palmas, Tenerife (Canaries); Mahon (Minorca); Orlando, Sanford (Florida); and Palma (Majorca). The aircraft are being provided by Astraeus, BA, bmi British Midland, First Choice Airways, Jet2.com, Monarch Airlines, Thomsonfly, Virgin Atlantic and a number of overseas airlines.

Thomson, First Choice, Thomas Cook and Virgin Holidays staff are continuing to provide essential support on the ground in resorts, with cooperation from other tour operators and the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO), which is helping to coordinate this operation.

People can consult the CAA website www.atol.org.uk under 'failure of XL Leisure Group' and 'more information for passengers in resort' for up-to-date information on all repatriation flights that have been arranged. The call centre numbers are +44 (0) 2891 856547 for customers abroad; and 0870 590 0927 for customers in the UK with advance bookings. Customers are asked to check the ATOL website before telephoning as the information they need is likely to be found there.

Notes to editors:

ATOL (short for Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) is managed by the CAA and gives comprehensive protection from losing money or being stranded abroad to 26 million people in the UK who buy air holidays and flights from tour operators each year. It is by far the largest travel protection scheme in the UK, and the only one for flights and air holidays sold by tour operators.

All tour operators selling flights and air holidays must hold a licence from the CAA. If a licence holder fails, the CAA is responsible for ensuring customers are either repatriated to the UK or receive a refund of payments made.

Repatriation costs and refunds are met by the Air Travel Trust fund, the funds of which come from a £1 per person contribution, called the ATOL Protection Contribution, each licence holder is required to make when it accepts a booking under its ATOL. In some circumstances a licence holder will have also provided a bond, which is used in the first instance to protect customers.

In the year to March 2008, ATOL enabled over 2,000 customers of failed tour operators to complete their holidays and return to the UK and 21,000 received a refund of advance payments. For the year, total expenditure on repatriations and refunds was £7.5 million.

Further information about ATOL is available on the ATOL website at www.atol.org.uk.