How To Get Money Back When Firms Fail
Sadly, the UK's third-largest tour operator, XL Leisure, went into administration on Friday, leaving 290,000 holidaymakers in the lurch.
The UK's third-largest tour operator collapsed into administration today (Friday), leaving 90,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad. The failure of XL Leisure Group leaves a further 200,000 people with advance bookings out of pocket, and 1,700 employees out of work. (It's also bad news for my fellow Hammers fans, as XL is West Ham United's official kit sponsor.)
Do you have a booking with one of these brands?
Crawley-based XL flies to around fifty destinations from twelve UK airports including Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham. Its popular brands include Kosmar Holidays (for the Greek islands) and Travel City Direct (to Florida). Here's an alphabetical list of all XL brands:
- Aspire Holidays
- Excel Aviation
- Explorer House
- Freedom Flights
- Freedom Flights (Aviation)
- Kosmar Villa Holidays
- Medlife Hotels
- The Really Great Holiday Company
- Travel City Flights
- Travel City Direct
- XL Airways UK
- XL Leisure Group
It appears that the business is the latest victim of high fuel prices, the economic downturn and the credit crunch, with its directors unable to raise new funding to continue trading. As travel-company collapses go, this is by no means the first and it certainly won't be the last, but it is certainly the biggest failure of recent years. However, XL's French and German operations have been bought by an investment bank, enabling them to continue trading independently.
Advice from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
Customers stranded overseas and their relatives can call the following UK number for advice: +44 (0) 2891 856547. Also, rival airlines including BMI, Easyjet, Flybe and Ryanair have rushed to the rescue by offering to fly some marooned holidaymakers home. The Civil Aviation Authority is also making arrangements to repatriate stranded passengers using substitute aircraft.
If you've booked a holiday via XL but have yet to travel, then you can call 0870 5900927 for advice. However, calls to this number can cost up to 10p per minute, so don't stay on the line for too long!
How to get your money back
With all of XL's services suspended, the plans of thousands of Brits hoping to head off to the Caribbean, Mediterranean (including the Canaries, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey), North Africa or North America are ruined. However, most will be able to get a refund and book a replacement holiday, thanks to these three safety-nets:
1. The ATOL scheme
The good news is that package-holiday deals booked via bonded tour operators and travel agents are covered by the CAA's Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) scheme. This safety-net will repay customers who have booked a holiday in advance with XL. However, the minority of customers who booked a flight directly or via XL.com will have to pay a fee.
2. Credit and debit cards
If you've paid for a flight or holiday using a credit card or Visa debit card, then you should have no problem claiming a refund from your card issuer. Simply call your bank or card company, explain the problem and then demand a refund. For credit cards, `Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act' applies, giving you the legal right to a refund if goods and services costing £100 to £30,000 are not delivered.
3. Travel insurance
Of course, you should never go abroad without first arranging good-value travel insurance, as this provides a valuable lifeline when things go wrong. Some policies cover scheduled flights, so people trapped outside of the UK following the collapse of an airline or travel company may fall back on their travel-insurance policy to get them home. Likewise, anyone with an advanced booking with XL should contact their travel insurer for advice on obtaining a refund.
The people who stand to lose most are those who booked flights directly with XL. Those without travel insurance who didn't pay by credit card or Visa debit card have little hope of getting any money back. So, when you book your next flight or holiday, make sure that you're protected in the event that your airline or tour operator goes bust!
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