9/12/2008: XL Airways UK Ceases Operations

9/12/2008: XL Airways UK Ceases Operations

DALLAS — Today in Aviation, British charter airline XL Airways UK (JN) ceased operations in 2008 due to a deteriorating financial position.

The airline, a subsidiary of the XL Leisure Group, had been the third-largest package holiday group in the UK. From its three bases at London Gatwick (LGW), Manchester (MAN), and Glasgow (GLA), the airline provided short-haul and long-haul charter services, predominantly to leisure destinations.

Two other airlines (also defunct as of 2019) within the group used the XL Airways branding: XL Airways France and XL Airways Germany, which were not affected by the insolvency of the XL Leisure Group.

Sabre Airways operated this Boeing 727 between March 1995 and the airline’s renaming as Excel on 16 January 2001. Photo: RuthAS – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

XL Beginnings

The airline was established in 1994 as Sabre Airways and started operations on December 17, 1994. The name Excel was adopted following the acquisition, in November 2000, of a 67% stake by Libra Holidays Group, and subsequently increased.

As a new charter airline, JN concentrated on flights from LGW and MAN to holiday destinations including Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Spain, the Canaries, St Lucia, and Egypt.

In March 2006, JN signed an agreement with GE Commercial Aviation Services for the lease of two Next-Generation Boeing 737-900ER aircraft. They were the first examples of the latest variant of the Boeing 737 aircraft to operate in the UK when they were delivered.

XL Airways France F-GRSQ Airbus A330-200. Photo: Alberto Cucini/airways

XL Demise

On September 11, 2008, parent company XL Leisure Group filed for administration, announcing that the next day, 11 companies associated with the group would be put into administration, including JN.

The JN demise left around 90,000 stranded passengers in 50 destinations across Europe, the US, the Caribbean, and Africa. 63,000 of the stranded passengers were on package holidays, meaning they were covered by the ATOL bond, which ensures paid-for repatriation.

The UK’s 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.

Featured image: Boeing 737-800 in final livery. Photo: Adrian Pingstone in April, Own work, Public Domain

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