Quarter of stranded XL tourists return as new travel firm shuts

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The Independent Travel

More than 22,000 of the 85,000 passengers stranded overseas following the collapse of XL are expected to return home today as the biggest modern emergency airlift continues.

The arrangements were revealed as it was announced yesterday that a second British tour operator had gone bust just two days after the demise of XL, Britain's third-largest holiday company. K&S Holidays ceased trading late on Saturday night, leaving 150 passengers stuck in Bodrum, Turkey. A further 460 passengers who had booked holidays with the north London firm will see their travel plans dashed.

And the airline industry's woes deepened further still as the Italian flagship carrier Alitalia announced it could be forced to ground flights from today after admitting it was running out of money to buy fuel. The company is said to be operating at a loss of more than £700,000 per day.

The repatriation of 22,090 XL customers to Britain was the only piece of good news for the aviation world. The CAA revealed it had arranged 94 flights to bring home passengers stranded in 28 airports across Europe and America. Another 50,000 are expected to be returned home when their holidays end. The planes have been provided by other airlines. However, 10,000 who booked flights only will have to make their own way back.

Many customers were still stranded in airports. Victoria Millington, 25, from London, arrived at Dalaman airport, Turkey, unaware XL had gone out of business. She said: "We arrived to check in and couldn't see our flight on the board. We cast around to find the desk and then asked airport security. The man shrugged and said 'XL finish'."

She added that no one was at the airport to help passengers. "It's as if they're trying to ignore the whole thing," she said. "Sweep it under the carpet." Gary and Julie Tappin paid £3,000 to fly their wedding party back from Dalaman. "We had no choice," Gary said. "We've got babies and elderly relatives to get home."

The CAA announced that K&S Travel, which also trades under the name Travel Turkey, had informed the flight regulators on Saturday night that it was to cease trading. The firm organised package tours to Turkey on flights chartered from Onur Air. The CAA said holidaymakers were covered by the Atol protection scheme, and it was re-chartering planes from Onur to minimise disruption.

Italy's government was locked in talks with the unions last night to push through a rescue deal for Alitalia as fears intensified for the company. Its collapse would be embarrassing for Silvio Berlusconi, who promised in his campaign for re-election that he would save it. On Saturday he said: "We're holding our breath."