Passengers left stranded by the collapse of the airline Flyglobespan are all expected to arrive home by Christmas after the airline industry mounted an emergency operation to repatriate thousands of holidaymakers.
The small Scottish airline and tour operator collapsed late on Wednesday, leaving 4,500 holidaymakers stranded in Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Egypt or waiting for holiday flights from British airports.
Airlines including Ryanair and easyJet offered discount fares and laid on extra aircraft to fly many back to the UK. Administrators appointed to close down Globespan announced today that they had laid off 550 employees, including pilots and aircrew, without any redundancy pay, and were keeping 100 staff on to help wind up its operations.
Scores more Globespan employees in India, the Middle East and Ascension Island were also left overseas but are now being repatriated. Nearly 60 staff in Delhi have been given free flights home by Virgin, while an Italian airline has temporarily taken over “air bridge” flights for the Ministry of Defence for British troops based in the Falkland islands.
As attention shifted to the cause of Globespan’s collapse, the administrator, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), confirmed it was also investigating why a “significant” amount of money from credit card bookings, thought to be between £30m and £35m, had not been paid to Globespan. The sum held back by payment processing firm E-Clear is thought to be about double that needed to cover sums which must now be paid out to credit card customers whose flights never took off.
There were chaotic scenes at Scottish airports when Globespan passengers arrived to find their flights had been cancelled, the flights wiped from departure boards, and the airline’s desks abandoned. Many relied on airport staff for help.
Gino Giannico, 75, and wife, June, 77, a retired couple from Dundee, paid £1,600 for a package holiday to Alicante but had missed news of Globespan’s collapse. “I’m blazing mad. They’ve obviously not just known about this yesterday – they must have known earlier,” said Giannico.
Noe Mendelles, 50, arrived at Edinburgh airport at 7am to fly for a family reunion in Portugal. “Yesterday I checked my booking and there was nothing on the website to warn anything was wrong.”
In a statement issued through PwC, the firm’s directors thanked employees and customers for “supporting” the company for 35 years, adding only that they “believe that they’ve done everything that they could to achieve a more favourable outcome from what we see today”.
The Civil Aviation Authority has guaranteed to repatriate 1,100 people who bought Globespan package holidays under an industry scheme, but 3,500 others who bought flights online will be forced to buy new tickets home and recoup their lost money from their credit card companies.
Ralph Gerrard, from Kirkcaldy in Fife, feared he will be stranded on his two-week holiday in Lanzarote. “We booked through the website and do not know if we are covered to get home,” he said.
Fiona Farmer, the regional officer for Flyglobespan with the Unite union, said: “This is devastating for employees who have lost their jobs and will not be receiving their December pay next week. We are in urgent discussion with the receivers on this issue.”