Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 17:51 UK

Airline collapse hits thousands

Passengers stranded at Glasgow Airport tell their stories

Hundreds of people have been left stranded and up to 45,000 have lost bookings after the collapse of the low-cost transatlantic airline Zoom.

The carrier suspended all its flights, blaming the economic downturn and steep rises in fuel bills.

Zoom, founded in 2001, flew mainly to Canada from Glasgow, Gatwick, Belfast, Cardiff and Manchester airports.

Zoom said BA and Virgin Atlantic were offering "special" fares for passengers whose flights had been cancelled.

Thousands of people due to fly with Zoom in the coming weeks have been told to rebook with other carriers.

However some passengers have said they would have to abandon plans because they could not find affordable alternative flights.

Isobel and Michael Shannon, from Dumfriesshire, said they would have to cancel their two-week holiday to Nova Scotia.

They had already paid for accommodation and car hire and were not sure if they were be eligible for a refund. The couple also paid for 15 days' car parking at Glasgow airport.

Mrs Shannon, 58, said: "The other airlines are quoting 2,500 and we just can't do it."

Helen Steel, 31, was due to travel on Thursday with her husband, mother and five-month-old daughter to Canada, for a holiday.

She said: "We booked into a hotel and we were on the internet until 11.30pm trying to find flights. Today BA are quoting 2,500 and BMI only have business class seats left. It seems that we've been left with no help from anybody."

The airline said it expected the vast majority of affected passengers would be able to secure alternative flights and would be entitled to refunds.

It said 80% of its passenger bookings were made using credit cards or through travel operators and both methods carried a high degree of protection.

We believe the majority of passengers who booked with us should be able to secure an alternative flight
Hugh Boyle
Zoom chairman

Zoom said an estimated 40,000 passengers, including around 10,400 UK-based people, had made bookings with Zoom over the next year, the majority of which were for 2009 departures.

Zoom chairman Hugh Boyle said: "We are trying to make as many passengers as possible aware of their options in terms of alternative flights and the possibility of securing refunds for the flights they booked with Zoom.

"As things stand, there is good availability of alternative flights as we have passed the main holiday period. We believe the majority of passengers who booked with us should be able to secure an alternative flight.

Mr Boyle said every possible effort had been made to save the airline and safeguard flights and that it was only very late on Thursday when the actions of suppliers and creditors made it impossible to continue.

Jonathan Hinkles, UK managing director of Zoom, put the airline's troubles down to the "significant" increase in the price of fuel and a slowdown in the economy.

He said the airline's fuel bill had increased by about 15m over the past year, representing a rise of about 80-90 on the cost of a return ticket price on a trip to Canada.

'Impossible events'

Mr Hinkles said the collapse was brought about by one of the leasing companies which owned one of Zoom's aircraft taking action to seize the plane.

He said that "set a chain of events in motion from which it was impossible for us to recover".

He added: "We have been working on a financing deal for the company for two months and we have been making very good progress with that.

"We fully expected we would be able to continue flying but the problems that we encountered during the day yesterday, however, with a number of aircraft being seized by airports authorities, such as the one in Glasgow, made it very difficult. Clearly you can't run an airline without aircraft."

WHAT SHOULD ZOOM AIRLINES' PASSENGERS DO?

Any Zoom flight you have booked will not be departing. If you still wish to travel, Zoom recommends contacting other carriers and lists several on its website

If your flight is part of a package holiday originating from the UK, you may be able to make a claim under the CAA's Air Travel Organiser's Licence (Atol) scheme.

If you have paid for a Zoom flight, contact your credit card or debit card issuer to see if they can refund your money
Source: Zoom Airlines

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said its Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol) protection scheme did not cover customers who booked flights directly with airlines such as Zoom.

It said people should approach their credit or debit card companies for advice about refunds, while those with travel insurance should check whether they have airline insolvency cover.

The CAA said UK customers who purchased air holiday packages which included Zoom Airlines flights or charter flights from a tour operator should contact the operator or travel agent about alternative travel arrangements.




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