Flyglobespan: 8,000 swamp helplines as international rescue is go

MORE than 8,000 calls flooded customer helplines yesterday, as efforts continued to bring home thousands of holidaymakers hit by the collapse of Flyglobespan.

• Going nowhere: Two of Flyglobespan's fleet sit on the tarmac at Glasgow airport yesterday. The airline has followed its parent company into administration, hitting tens of thousands of travellers. Picture: PA

Some 550 staff at Edinburgh-based parent Globespan Group also lost their jobs yesterday. Forty are staying on temporarily to staff the helplines and help wind up the business, but 60 baggage handlers employed by subsidiary firm Alba Ground Handling at Glasgow Airport are likely to be the only ones to keep their jobs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Unions accused the firm of leaving overseas staff stranded and having to pay their own way home. Unite said some had been thrown out of their hotel rooms. Virgin Atlantic stepped in to bring flight crew back from India.

Passengers who had expected to fly out from Edinburgh and Glasgow yesterday for Christmas breaks desperately tried to arrange alternative flights. Film-maker Noe Mendelles, from Edinburgh, had been on her way to a family reunion in Portugal. She said: "I booked my flights about three months ago – I am absolutely outraged."

Bruce Cartwright, of the administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers, said there were no funds available and there had been no option but to stop flights and make staff redundant. He said: "Staff acted with great dignity today, considering the position they find themselves in."

He said no-one would be left stranded anywhere – "we absolutely want to get everyone home".

All flights were cancelled on Wednesday after Globespan went into administration, followed by the airline yesterday. This has been blamed on Globespan's failure to secure extra funding from Halcyon Investments, an expected backer, after hitting cashflow problems.

However, Mr Cartwright confirmed 30 million had not been passed on to the group by E-Clear, a credit card processing firm that takes the airline's online payments. He said E-Clear and Halcyon were in the same company, but had yet to get details. He said: "There does seem to be rather a lot of money in the chain which hasn't reached Globespan."

However, he said the owed money might not have been enough to save the firm, as it had made a loss of just under 20m two years ago due to expansion into "new, experimental routes".

Mr Cartwright said a Globespan helpline had received 8,000 calls yesterday and two numbers had now been set up – 0131-466 7612 and 0141-332 3233.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it would be chartering nearly 60 flights to bring 1,100 package holidaymakers home over the next two weeks. The passengers, in 11 Mediterranean and Canary Islands resorts, are covered under the official Air Travel Organisers Licensing (Atol) scheme. The CAA said there were spare seats on other airlines' flights for the remaining 3,400 Flyglobespan passengers to get home. But they are not protected by Atol and will have to pay for their own tickets.

All but four of the 24 Flyglobespan routes from Edinburgh and Glasgow are covered by other airlines: the exceptions are Madeira; Barcelona; Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt from Edinburgh; and Hurghada in Egypt from Glasgow.

A further 117,000 people had advance bookings with Flyglobespan, of which only 27,000 have Atol protection.

The CAA said passengers should get refunds on their original tickets if they cost more than 100 and were paid by a credit card or Visa debit card. This does not apply to other debit cards or cheques.

The collapse renewed calls for Atol-type protection to cover all air travel. Commons transport committee chairwoman Louise Ellman said: "The current system is a confused muddle that leaves too many passengers exposed."

Staff were told of the job losses at briefings by chief executive Rick Green, who said they had been "quite emotional".

Unite said flight crew and other staff had been stranded overseas, including those working on the airline's charter contracts in India and Saudi Arabia.

• Military personnel have been assured they will not be stranded in the Falklands, despite the collapse of Flyglobespan – the only airline that flew direct to the islands from the UK.

The Scottish carrier had the Ministry of Defence contract to operate flights in and out of the South Atlantic outpost. However, Air Italy has taken over the contract in the short term.