|Founded||1994 as Sabre Airways|
|Ceased operations||12 September 2008|
|Hubs|| London Gatwick |
|Focus cities|| Newcastle |
|Parent company||XL Leisure Group|
|Key people|| CEO Phil Wyatt |
Chairman Peter Owen
XL Airways was a British low-cost charter and scheduled airline, which ceased operations when it went into administration on 12 September 2008. Its headquarters were in Crawley, West Sussex, near London Gatwick Airport. It was part of the XL Leisure Group. From its three bases at London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow, the airline provided short-haul and long-haul charter services, predominantly to leisure destinations.
The airline also operated services from Newcastle, Bristol, East Midlands, Birmingham and Ireland West.[ citation needed ] Two other airlines (both now also defunct as of 2019) within the group used the XL Airways branding: XL Airways France and XL Airways Germany, and were not at the time affected by the insolvency of the XL Leisure Group.
The airline was established in 1994 as Sabre Airways, and started operations on 17 December 1994. The name Excel was adopted following the acquisition, in November 2000, of a 67% stake by Libra Holidays Group, and subsequently increased. In March 2004, the Avion Group (now Eimskipafélag Íslands) completed the purchase of 40.5% of the Excel Airways Group. [ citation needed ] As a new charter airline, Excel, concentrated on flights from Gatwick and Manchester to holiday destinations including Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Spain, the Canaries, St Lucia and Egypt.
In March 2006, Excel Airways signed an agreement with GE Commercial Aviation Services for the lease of two Next-Generation Boeing 737-900ER (Extended Range) aircraft. They were the first examples of the latest variant of the Boeing 737 aircraft to operate in the UK when delivered in May 2008.
Following the merger of sister company Air Atlanta Europe in May 2006, the airline acquired three Boeing 747-300 aircraft. They were operated between the UK and Orlando for Travel City Direct, but left the fleet in November 2007, following the expiration of their leases.
On 30 October 2006, members of the management purchased XL Leisure Group from Avion Group. XL Leisure Group consisted of Excel Airways Group in the UK, Star Airlines France and Star Europe in Germany.[ citation needed ]
As part of a major brand relaunch in November 2006, the XL.com website and aircraft branding was adopted by the Excel Airways Group. Sister airlines in Germany and France were also re-branded.
On 11 September 2008, parent company XL Leisure Group filed for administration, although for some time the group's website continued taking bookings. The group later announced, via its website, that on 12 September 2008, 11 companies associated with the group had been put into administration, including XL Airways UK Limited. That did not affect the German and French divisions of the company's operations.
The company issued the following statement: "The companies entered into administration having suffered as a result of volatile fuel prices, the economic downturn, and were unable to obtain further funding. The joint administrators cannot continue trading the business and therefore all flights operated by the companies have been immediately cancelled and the aircraft grounded;"
The airline's demise left around 90,000 stranded passengers in 50 destinations across Europe, USA, the Caribbean and Africa.63,000 of the stranded passengers were on package holidays, so were covered by the ATOL bond, which ensures paid-for repatriation. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) chartered a number of aircraft from a variety of British airlines. One widely reported Astraeus flight from Sharm el-Sheikh was flown by Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson. Passengers who had booked direct, and were therefore not ATOL-protected, had to arrange their own flights home, but in some cases were offered special fares by airlines, or were offered spare seats on CAA-organised flights at a reasonable cost.
On 26 August 2008, XL Airways announced the cancellation of the Caribbean long-haul programme until further notice from 3:00 November 2008, due to high fuel prices and declining passenger numbers. Routes cancelled were: St Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, St Lucia, Antigua, Grenada, Barbados. The airline's destinations prior to ceasing operations were:
From May 2007 XL Airways operated flights from Dublin, Cork and Knock which were marketed through XL Holidays as XL Airways Ireland. The inaugural flight operated from Dublin to Palma on 1 May 2007. Flights were offered to the following destinations prior to the airline ceasing operation:
On 16 July 2003, an Excel Airways Boeing 737-800 (G-XLAG) with 190 passengers and seven crew took off from Manchester Airport while vehicles were working near the end of the runway. Despite the crew being told the runway was operating at reduced length, they took off from a runway intersection with reduced length using a reduced thrust setting calculated for the assumed normal runway length. The aircraft lifted off over the vehicles, missing them by 56 feet (17 m), according to the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch report. Six safety recommendations were made.
On 4 November 2004, the left wing of an Excel Airways Boeing 767-200 (G-SATR) struck the right horizontal stabiliser of a stationary Bmibaby Boeing 737-300 while both aircraft were awaiting departure from Manchester Airport. The investigation concluded that the Excel 767 Captain, who bore primary responsibility for collision avoidance, misjudged the available separation due to a combination of physiological limitations, distractions and a false assumption regarding his Air Traffic Control clearance.
The airline won a number of awards, including Best Charter Airline 2006, World's Leading Charter Airline 2004, 2005 and 2007,Best Charter Airline 2004 and 2005 and UK Charter Airline Punctuality Awards for Summer 2002 - Runner Up.
The XL Airways UK fleet included the following aircraft:
|Aircraft||Operated||From / To||Notes|
|Airbus A320-200||1||2006-2008||Leased from Air Malta|
|Airbus A330-200||1||2008-2008||Leased from XL France|
|Boeing 737-800||15||2006-2009||Parked under XL Airways UK registrations before going to different airlines in early 2009|
|Boeing 757-200||3||2006-2008||leased from Air Finland|
|Boeing 767-300ER||3||2006-2009||Parked under XL Airways UK registrations before going to different airlines in early 2009|
|Boeing 747-300||4||2006-2007||Acquired from Air Atlanta Europe|
|McDonnell Douglas MD-83||1||2006-2007|
For the 2007-2008 football season, XL Airways were the sponsors of West Ham United F.C. West Ham only received £2.5 million out of the planned £7.5 million sponsorship deal, which they cancelled on 12 September 2008 when the XL Leisure Group went into administration.
First Choice Airways Limited was a British charter airline of European tour operator TUI Travel PLC, based in Crawley, England until its merger with Thomsonfly to form Thomson Airways in 2008. It flew to more than 60 destinations worldwide from 14 UK and Irish airports. 70% of the airline's services were operated for its parent company, rising to 85% in the summer season, with the remainder on behalf of some 120 other tour operators. It also operated scheduled year-round leisure routes to Cyprus and the resorts of Spain and Portugal.
Air Atlanta Icelandic is a charter and ACMI airline based in Kópavogur, Iceland. It specialises in leasing aircraft on an ACMI and wet lease basis to airlines worldwide needing extra passenger and cargo capacity. It also operates charter services. The company operates in different countries and has bases worldwide.
Monarch Airlines, also known as Monarch, was a British charter and scheduled airline founded by Bill Hodgson and Don Peacock and financed by the Swiss Sergio Mantegazza family. The company later became a low-cost airline in 2004 before abandoning charter flying completely. The airline's headquarters were at Luton, and it had operating bases at Birmingham, Leeds/Bradford, Gatwick and Manchester.
British Caledonian (BCal) was a British private independent airline which operated out of Gatwick Airport in south-east England during the 1970s and 1980s. It was created as an alternative to the British government-controlled corporation airlines and was described as the "Second Force" in the 1969 Edwards report. It was formed by the UK's second-largest, independent charter airline Caledonian Airways taking over British United Airways (BUA), then the largest British independent airline and the United Kingdom's leading independent scheduled carrier. The carrier slogan was Let's go British Caledonian in the 1970s and We never forget you have a choice in the 1980s. The BUA takeover enabled Caledonian to realise its long-held ambition to transform itself into a scheduled airline. The merged entity eventually became the UK's foremost independent, international scheduled airline.
Air Europe was a wholly privately owned, independent British airline, established in 1978 under the working title Inter European Airways. It adopted the Air Europe name the following year. Its head office was in Reigate, Surrey, then in Crawley, West Sussex.
Dan-Air was an airline based in the United Kingdom and a wholly owned subsidiary of London shipbroking firm Davies and Newman. It was started in 1953 with a single aircraft. Initially, it operated cargo and passenger charter flights from Southend (1953–1955) and Blackbushe airports (1955–1960) using a variety of piston-engined aircraft before moving to a new base at Gatwick Airport in 1960, followed by expansion into inclusive tour (IT) charter flights and all-year round scheduled services. The introduction of two de Havilland Comet series 4 jet aircraft in 1966 made Dan-Air the second British independent airline after British United Airways to begin sustained jet operations.
Jet2.com Limited, also known as Jet2, is a British low-cost leisure airline offering scheduled and charter flights from the United Kingdom. As of 2022, it is the third-largest scheduled airline in the UK, behind EasyJet and British Airways. Jet2.com is also officially the second-largest tour operator in the UK behind TUI. Its headquarters are located at Leeds Bradford Airport, with further bases at Alicante-Elche, Belfast–International, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London–Stansted, Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife–South. The company holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats. Jet2.com also offers a charter service through its Jet2charters brand.
Britannia Airways was a charter airline based in the UK. It was founded in 1961 as Euravia and became the world's largest holiday airline. Britannia's main bases were at London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Luton, Cardiff, Bristol, East Midlands, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds Bradford, Edinburgh and Glasgow. It had its headquarters at Britannia House in Luton.
British Airtours was a British charter airline with flight operations out of London Gatwick and Manchester Airports.
Laker Airways was a private British airline founded by Sir Freddie Laker in 1966. It was originally a charter airline flying passengers and cargo worldwide. Its head office was located at Gatwick Airport in Crawley, England.
GB Airways was a British airline; prior to its sale, it was headquartered in "The Beehive," a former terminal building, at City Place Gatwick, London Gatwick Airport in Crawley, West Sussex, England.
Helios Airways (Ajet.com) was a low-cost Cypriot airline operating scheduled and charter flights between Cyprus and many European and African destinations. It had its corporate headquarters on the grounds of Larnaca International Airport in Larnaca. Its main base was Larnaca International Airport. Flights ceased on 6 November 2006 because the company's aircraft were detained and its bank accounts frozen by the Government of Cyprus.
MyTravel Airways Limited was a British scheduled and charter airline with headquarters in Manchester, England. It operated worldwide holiday charter services mainly for its parent company, the MyTravel Group. The airline merged with Thomas Cook Airlines UK Limited in 2008 and was renamed Thomas Cook Airlines Limited.
Air Atlanta Europe was an airline based at London Gatwick Airport, England. It provided long term wet-lease contract flights for Excel Airways, Virgin Atlantic and others, as well as ad hoc flights tailored to customer requirements.
British Island Airways (BIA) was the legal successor to British United Island Airways (BUIA). It commenced operations under that name in mid-1970. Ten years later it merged with Air Anglia, Air Wales and Air Westward to form Air UK, at the time the United Kingdom's biggest regional airline and its third-largest scheduled operator. The first British Island Airways had its head office at Congreve House (1970–1972) and Berkeley House (1973–1979), which are respectively located in Station Road and on the high street in Redhill, Surrey.
Air UK Leisure was a British airline operating charter flights on behalf of its parent Air UK.
The XL Leisure Group (XLLG) was a major tour operating company in the UK, consisting of charter and scheduled airlines, holiday companies and flight-only tour operators. It also had operations in France, Germany, Ireland, Australia and Cyprus. The group's UK companies were placed into administration on 12 September 2008.
Travel City Direct was a brand owned by Virgin Holidays. It was previously the trading name of the Really Great Holiday Company PLC, a British holiday company based in Crawley, specialising in holidays to the United States. The company was part of the third largest tour operator in the United Kingdom, the XL Leisure Group and was the UK's largest direct sell tour operator to Florida.
Excalibur Airways was a charter airline based in England. It had its head office on the grounds of East Midlands Airport in Castle Donington, Leicestershire.
TUI Airways Limited,, is a British charter airline, offering scheduled and charter flights from the United Kingdom and Ireland to destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to XL Airways .|