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Holidaymakers stranded by collapse

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As many of 85,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad by the collapse of the UK's third largest tour operator will by now be checking their travel insurance policies.

XL Leisure Group`s decision to call in the administrators left tens of thousands without flights after the firm failed to secure a rescue package amid deep financial difficulties.

Disappointed customers queued at Gatwick and Manchester airports on one of the busiest days of the week for holiday flights.

They faced a race to get tickets on alternative flights if they wanted to go ahead with their holidays, although some just turned round and headed home.

The group, which had been taking holiday bookings until recently, said it had been hit by rising fuel costs and the credit crunch. Many customers had no idea what had happened until they were told by airport officials.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) estimated there were 50,000 customers abroad who had booked through an XL tour operator, 10,000 on holiday with XL Airways, and 25,000 with other tour operators who shared the XL flights. A further 200,000 customers had advance bookings with the XL tour operators, it said.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said everything possible was being done to get stranded holidaymakers home.

She said in a statement: "My officials and the CAA have been monitoring developments and putting rescue plans into action."

© The Press Association 2008