Page last updated at 17:44 GMT, Saturday, 13 September 2008 18:44 UK

Stranded Britons returning to UK

A British holidaymaker arrives back at Gatwick airport on Saturday from Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
The first of the 90,000 stranded abroad have started landing in the UK

Passengers stranded when tour operator XL collapsed have started arriving back in the UK, after aviation authorities arranged planes for their collection.

Thousands of passengers have been returning to UK airports on specially chartered flights and on scheduled flights with spare seats.

XL's 21 planes were grounded on Friday, leaving some 90,000 people abroad.

The CAA said 12,000 people had so far been brought home on 52 relief flights to the UK.

One estimate suggests a total of 450 flights will be needed to repatriate the rest of the stranded passengers.

This could take several weeks.

The BBC's James Shaw, at Gatwick, said many of those who had managed to return during Friday night and Saturday morning were "tired and frustrated" after the anxiety of the last 24 hours, but also "relieved to be home".

The airlines operating the returning flights include BA, Monarch and Astraeus, which flew in from destinations including Tenerife, Orlando and Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.

Customers abroad: +44 (0) 2891 856547
Customers in the UK with advance bookings: 0870 5900927

The lead singer of Iron Maiden, Bruce Dickinson, who works as a pilot for the UK charter airline Astraeus, flew a plane back to the UK from Sharm El Sheikh. He said people had given up leave to get a crew together for the flight.

In Alicante about 522 passengers had been stranded after three flights to Glasgow, Gatwick and Manchester were cancelled.

Many have now found their own way home, but a replacement flight was also chartered by the CAA.

The 747 was due to pick up 33 passengers from Tenerife before boarding about 200 of those left stranded in Alicante, and flying on to Gatwick overnight.

At a cost of 175, there will also be further seats available on the flight for those not protected by the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol) scheme which covers overseas package tour passengers.

Those who were due to fly into airports other than Gatwick will be bussed to their final destinations.

The CAA has also been chartering planes from airlines including British Airways, Easyjet and Thomson.

A number of airlines also said they had offered assistance to passengers stranded by the collapse of XL.

XL Leisure Group
XL Airways UK
Excel Aviation
Explorer House
Aspire Holidays
Freedom Flights
Freedom Flights (Aviation)
The Really Great Holiday Company
Medlife Hotels
Travel City Flights
Kosmar Villa Holidays

The decision to place XL Leisure Group into administration has left thousands of staff facing the axes.

XL chairman Phil Wyatt has said the company's entire 1,700 UK workforce could be at risk.

XL flies to about 50 destinations. There are about 67,000 people stranded who booked directly with XL, and another 23,000 who booked via other companies.

The CAA also said the firm had 200,000 advance bookings.

Spokesman David Clover said package deals were covered by the CAA's Air Travel Organisers' Licensing scheme and those customers will be offered repatriation flights or their money back if they have an advance booking.

However, those who booked flights only with the airline or - about 10,000, according to the CAA - will have to pay to get home, although the CAA has offered to sell them any spare tickets at cost price.

Anyone yet to take their flights should check their insurance policies, and with their banks or credit card companies about refunds, it advises.

'Weaker players'

There is now widespread speculation that other airlines may be about to follow in XL's wake and go bust.

"I think there will be more failures, sadly, in the months to come," said aviation expert John Strickland of JLS Consulting.

Passengers returning from Sharm el Sheikh

On Saturday, an official from Italy's national carrier Alitalia warned it may have to cancel some flights because of a lack of funds to buy fuel.

Virgin head Sir Richard Branson has called for a review of the rules governing airlines.

He said planes grounded by the failure of their parent companies should be allowed to fly under the watch of the aviation regulator.

He claimed this would reduce disruption across the industry.

"It does not make sense for aircraft to be lying idle at UK airports when they should be used to bring back stranded passengers of that airline," he said.

Bob Atkinson, of online price comparison site, said there had been a surge in prices over the past 24 hours, in particular for flights during holiday periods such as Christmas.

Are you struggling to make your way home from your holiday destination? Have you paid for a holiday that you may not be able to take? If you were an employee of XL what are your views? Send us your comments using the form below.

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Yorkshire Post Video: Tourists stranded as credit crunch grounds XL Leisure - 53 mins ago
Sky News XL Holidaymakers Heading Home - 1 hr ago
Mid Sussex Today XL holidaymakers left stranded - 1 hr ago
Andover Advertiser Stranded holidaymakers heading home - 1 hr ago
Horncastle News 65,000 tourists stranded by holiday firm collapse - 2 hrs ago

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