SkyEurope collapse leaves thousands of fliers stranded

Slovakian budget carrier is latest scalp claimed by airline industry downturn

SkyEurope Airlines, the Slovakian discount carrier, lost its battle against bankruptcy yesterday, leaving travellers stranded in airports from Manchester to Bratislava.

A raft of budget rivals, including easyJet and Ryanair, rushed to offer cheap "rescue" tickets to passengers stranded abroad after the company grounded its planes.

SkyEurope's failure comes as no surprise to industry-watchers. The company started in 2002 and grew quickly – boosted by the expansion of the EU in 2004. It raised €120m (£106m) when it listed on the Viennese stock exchange the following year, but rapid growth never turned to profits.

New management, brought in two years ago, backed the airline out of Polish and Hungarian markets to focus on Vienna, Prague and Bratislava, but to no avail. Last year, the group's losses ballooned to €62m and the fleet was cut from 15 aircraft to just five.

With the global industry struggling with the toxic combination of volatile fuel prices and crushed economic confidence, SkyEurope made little progress. The first quarter of 2009 saw the carrier slip another €15m into the red and the group went into bankruptcy protection in June, just weeks before the departure of Jason Bitter, the chief executive.

Last month SkyEurope was offered a lifeline, in the shape of a €16.5m investment offer from Austria's Focus Equity. But the money was contingent on the successful conclusion of a major restructuring of the company, and SkyEurope went bankrupt too quickly to comply. By August, the carrier's flights were banned by Vienna for non-payments of bills, with Prague and Bratislava following suit last week.

The Slovakian company joins a growing list of airlines brought down by the global downturn. More than 80 have gone bankrupt since the start of 2008. And while SkyEurope may be the first major collapse in Europe this year, it is unlikely to be the last.

SkyEurope was popular in the UK for weekend trips from London Luton and Manchester. Some passengers with tickets booked on SkyEurope flights may be entitled to a refund from their credit or debit card providers. The Atol scheme will also protect most travellers who booked flights through a travel agency as part of a package, although it may not cover late-bookers.

Abta, the travel association, said the situation reinforces its calls to the EU and UK government to make it a legal requirement on airlines to provide financial protection for passengers.

Mark Tanzer, the chief executive of Abta, said: "This airline failure in a tough economic climate, along with several others last year, highlights the need for urgent action to plug this gaping hole in customer financial protection."

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
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

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate