Friday, September 12, 2008

XL homepage paints a sorry picture of the industry

[Updates at bottom of the post] 

Another week, another collapse.

But this time it's a big one - XL Leisure Group, the holding company behind, Kosmar, Freedom Flights, Medlifehotels, Aspire and the Travel City Direct brands, went into administration yesterday evening.

XL is the third largest tour operator in the UK behind Thomas Cook and Thomson Holidays and although it will not be TOO much of a surprise to the industry that it has gone the way of Zoom et al, the fragility of the sector is now hopelessly exposed.

As with previous collapses, details for consumers with what to do are on the homepage.

UPDATE 8am: Given the sheer scale of the problem and volume of passengers involved, it's no wonder the CAA website is having problems. CAA spokesman tells us: "Overloaded by 200,000 customers with advanced bookings, I'm afraid - hopefully back up soon."

UPDATE 8.05am: Amazing reaction from consumers on Travel Rants blog

UPDATE 8.20am: Dermot Blastland of TUI on BBC Breakfast with Simon Calder of the Independent. Paraphrasing Calder: "Mr Blastland will not say this, but despite the loss of jobs and holidays for consumers, this is actually good news for the industry as it can now start to make money."

UPDATE: 9.30am: Easyjet offers rescue package to stranded flight-only passengers for £75.

UPDATE: 10am: XL press conference from Gatwick. CEO Phil Wyatt looks crushed.

UPDATE: 10.40: Willie Walsh says "not surprised". Other airlines (unnamed) will follow. Walsh reckons around 30.

UPDATE: Go to the Travel Weekly landing page for the joint Travolution-Travel Weekly coverage of the XL collapse.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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