Tour Operator XL Folds; Small Cruise Impact

September 12, 2008

XL Leisure Group, one of the U.K.'s biggest tour operators, has folded. The company, whose Travel City Direct subsidiary primarily specialized in land-based holidays, also offered a handful of Caribbean and Florida cruise-and-stay packages -- including voyages on Carnival Cruise Lines ships.

Because Travel City Direct was financially protected by the U.K. tour operator protection scheme, ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing), passengers booked on future trips (whether cruise-related or not) can apply for a refund through the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority). Those customers currently on their trips will continue their holidays as the financial failure of XL Leisure has no bearing on the operations of Carnival Cruise Lines.

Lynn Narroway, director of sales and marketing for Carnival U.K., told Cruise Critic today that it was important to stress that "Travel City Direct packaged up Carnival cruises, mainly for two-week cruise and stay holidays from Port Canaveral. We have no jurisdiction on the holiday other than that we provide the cruise to Travel City Direct."

Narraway said that any future customers would be able to rebook with Carnival or another U.K. operator.

No other cruise lines had deals in place with XL or Travel City Direct.

In the meantime, other travellers (cruise and otherwise) who might be impacted are those who are booked on an XL Airways U.K. flight. This arm of the company's operations is not ATOL protected. Here's where things stand:

Those abroad will have to find their own way home and book their own flights.

Customers with advanced bookings who paid by credit card should contact their card issuer or bank to see if they are protected or check with their travel insurer to see if they are covered by airline insolvency.

The good news is the travel industry is scrambling together to help out displaced travellers:

easyJet is offering passengers stranded at their destinations a special rescue fee of £75 to return home to the U.K in the next seven days.

Ryanair has offered the use of one of its aircraft over the next two weeks to return stranded holidaymakers.

The CAA estimates that around 85,000 customers are currently abroad with the XL Leisure Group and a further 200,000 have advanced bookings with one of the tour operators in the company. All XL customers are being warned not to go to the airport as all flights from the U.K. have been grounded.

--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor