Alitalia could be next as tourists still stranded after collapse of XL Leisure

Fears were growing last night that the Italian airline Alitalia would collapse, days after some 85,000 British holidaymakers were stranded abroad when the travel firm XL Leisure Tours went bust.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, rushed to consult ministers in Rome after the national carrier announced that it might be forced into liquidation. The airline's bankruptcy administrator, Augusto Fantozzi, was reported to have said flights could not be guaranteed because Alitalia was unable to obtain fuel.

Meanwhile, administrators for XL Leisure Tours, which went bust on Friday, refused to allow officials to use the firm's grounded fleet to help bring back the stranded passengers, it was claimed last night.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it had approached Kroll – which was called in on Friday as joint administrators for XL – with a request to allow use of the planes, but claimed it had been rebuffed. "We offered to extend XL Airways' licence to allow us to take passengers but Kroll refused," a spokesman said.

"We offered to pay for the use of the aircraft as well as fuel and crews as it was our preferred option to use planes which are sitting on the tarmac doing nothing."

Kroll denied the claim, saying that it had "explored every avenue" to help repatriate customers in discussions with the CAA, "including continuing to operate the fleet".

A spokeswoman said: "The CAA was not in a position to offer terms that were reasonable."

Kroll said earlier that people who paid by credit card or used a tour operator affiliated to Atol, which operates an air travel protection scheme, should get their money back, but those who booked a flight directly with XL Airways would not be protected. In some cases, travel insurance and payment by Visa card will also be liable for refunds.

The CAA, which is co-ordinating the repatriation of XL's passengers, has asked Monarch Airlines and Virgin Atlantic to bring people home in spare seats and extra chartered flights.

Sir Richard Branson, the boss of Virgin Airlines, called for an urgent review of the rules governing failed airlines . "It does not make sense for aircraft to be lying idle at UK airports when they should be used to bring back stranded passengers," he said.

The first victims of XL's collapse began to arrive back yesterday. The CAA said it had successfully repatriated 11,900 people by last night. Among them was Alison Hill, 37, a lawyer from Redditch, Worcestershire, who flew into Gatwick yesterday morning on a specially chartered Monarch flight from Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and spoke of her concerns that she might not have been able to find a flight home.

"I spent the whole day in tears at reception with a very unhappy two-year-old wondering if I was ever going to get home," she said.

As well as those stranded abroad, thousands more people waiting to begin their holidays were left stuck at UK airports. Mark and Kelly Belcher, a newlywed couple from Essex, were devastated when their honeymoon to Skiathos in Greece was cancelled.

The Foreign Office said British embassies were on standby to help nationals get in touch with families back in the UK for financial assistance.

There was better news for travellers heading to Europe by train yesterday and relief that services were beginning to return to normal after a fire in the Channel Tunnel on Thursday. Eurostar began a reduced service at 7am yesterday, after a 16-hour battle by hundreds of firefighters from Britain and France to subdue the blaze which raged inside the Channel rail link.

Travel chaos: Normal service will resume...

* Eurotunnel announces a limited service through the Channel Tunnel on Saturday morning.

* Priority for rail passengers and lorry freight over cars, for now.

* 85,000 British holidaymakers stranded abroad after the collapse of XL Leisure Group.

* Thousands more who booked with XL forced to make alternative arrangements or cancel breaks.

* Civil Aviation Authority says that people who booked through Atol-affiliated operators or paid by credit card will be fully compensated.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried