What Happened To XL Airways?

XL Airways used to be a significant name in the UK leisure market, operating charter flights both to…

What Happened To XL Airways?

XL Airways used to be a significant name in the UK leisure market, operating charter flights both to European destinations and further afield. You may remember that its story came to an end in 2008, but how did this happen? Let’s examine the airline’s fate, and how it was outlived by its two French and German counterpart airlines under the XL brand.

XL had hubs at Glasgow, London Gatwick, and Manchester. Photo: MilborneOne via Wikimedia Commons

Various name changes

XL Airways UK came into existence in 1994 under the name Sabre Airways, commencing operations on December 17th that year. Under this identity, the airline flew Boeing narrowbodies such as the 727 and 737 to European leisure destinations.

The turn of the century saw the charter carrier undergo a rebrand, after the Libra Holidays Group acquired a 67% stake in the carrier in November 2000. As a result, it took on the name Excel Airways. Its destinations in the early to mid-2000s were still primarily European, although Excel’s network did stretch beyond Europe to Egypt and St Lucia.

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Sabre Airways Boeing 727
Sabre Airways commenced operations in December 1994. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons

The XL Leisure Group purchased the carrier in October 2006. In May that year, Excel merged with Air Atlanta Europe, which had seen it briefly take on three Boeing 747-300s. The purchase by XL prompted another rebrand, to XL Airways. Of course, audibly, this sounded the same as the previous name, but it gave a visual indicator of the group’s involvement.

The end of the line

2006 also saw XL acquire Star Airlines France and Star Europe, which it rebranded as XL Airways France and XL Airways Germany respectively. However, XL Airways UK only operated under this name for two years. On September 11th, 2008, the XL Group filed for administration, causing 11 of its companies to cease operations the next day, including XL Airways UK.

Excel Airways Boeing 767
The carrier became known as Excel Airways in 2000. Photo: Simon Butler via Flickr

XL Airways UK’s collapse had an extensive fallout. It stranded some 90,000 passengers abroad. The CAA arranged numerous charters to return the stranded passengers home. One of these, operated by Astraeus, was even flown by Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson. It also meant that the airline only paid London-based football club West Ham United £2.5 million ($3.5 million) of an existing £7.5 million ($10.6 million) sponsorship deal.

Outlived by French and German partners

XL Airways France and XL Airways Germany were not affected by the wider group folding. As such, they were able to continue operating despite their UK-based counterpart’s struggles. On the day of XL’s collapse, both were acquired by the Straumur Investment Bank.

XL Airways Boeing 737
XL Airways UK’s collapse stranded 90,000 passengers abroad. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

XL Airways Germany flew for another five years, before eventually collapsing in January 2013. This came shortly after it filed for bankruptcy in December 2012, having already suspended its winter schedules. At the time of its collapse, XL Airways Germany was operating a small fleet consisting of five Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Its main hub was Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, XL Airways France was operational until 2019. By its closure, it was operating an All-Airbus A330 fleet, and even had the A330neo on order. However, in September 2019, it suspended ticket sales due to financial difficulties. Despite appealing to Air France for help, it ceased operations by the end of the month. In October 2019, a French court ruled that the airline could not be saved, and thus ordered its liquidation.

Do you remember XL Airways? Perhaps you even flew with the carrier, either under this identity or its former guise of Sabre Airways? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Source : Simple Flying More   

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When Will Starlux Airlines Take Its First Airbus A330neo?

Taipei-based Starlux Airlines is expecting its first Airbus A330-900neo early in 2022, paving the way for the airline’s…

When Will Starlux Airlines Take Its First Airbus A330neo?

Taipei-based Starlux Airlines is expecting its first Airbus A330-900neo early in 2022, paving the way for the airline’s expansion around Asia. The twin-aisle plane will bridge the gap between the airline’s existing fleet Airbus A321neos and yet-to-arrive Airbus A350s.

Starlux Airlines is expecting its first Airbus A330neo in February 2022. Photo: Airbus

High expectations for Starlux’s first A330neo

First reported by Executive Traveller, Starlux is anticipating its first A330neo in February and is eyeing initially operating it on Taipei – Singapore flights. The Airbus will come in a two-class configuration with Recaro’s CL 3710 seats in the main cabin and yet-to-be-disclosed seats in the business cabin.

However, given Starlux’s spectacular business cabin on its existing fleet of narrowbody Airbus planes, expectations are high for the A330neo business class product. Starlux only ordered the Airbus A330neo aircraft 12 months ago. The leased jets are coming from US-based Air Lease Corporation (ALC).

Starlux’s well-regarded business class cabin on its existing fleet. Photo: Starlux

A bumpy ride for Starlux

It has been a bumpy ride for the airline that launched less than two years ago. Starlux launched just as international travel was about to fall off the cliff. The airline operated its first passenger flights in January 2020. Two months later, Starlus was forced to suspend all flights.

It was three months before flights took off again. Fifteen months down the track, Starlux is flying to multiple destinations around Asia. However, frequencies are slight, often only once a week. Singapore, the proposed first A330neo destination, is only seeing one Starlux flight a week right now.

Starlux’s most visited destination is Macao. The airline currently operates five return passenger flights a week to Macao plus a further two freight-only flights.

Starlux aircraft in Taipei. Photo: Starlux

Stay informed:  for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Flying within Asia continues to lag other region’s recovery

Starlux will be betting on business improving by the time the first A330neo touches down in February. With proposed North American flights on pause, Starlux is sticking to flying around Asia. But intra-Asia flying is continuing to experience weak passenger volumes.

In July, 1.5 million passengers took an international flight within Asia. In contrast, 33 million passengers took an international flight within Asia in July 2019. According to the regional airline group, the Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines (AAPA), Asia is lagging behind other regions in terms of international air travel recovery.

“While other regions are easing restrictions on the back of successful vaccination roll-outs, borders in Asia still remain largely closed due to low vaccination levels,” said AAPA earlier this month.

Just over 7.3% of Taiwan’s population is fully vaccinated, and Taiwan’s border remains closed to most non-nationals. The country has also experienced a rolling series of soft lockdowns. For Starlux to fill its first Airbus A330neo (and its subsequent delivered aircraft), it will need movement restrictions in Taiwan and elsewhere around Asia to lift.

Unfortunately, an increasing number of industry pundits suggest Asia will be among the last parts of the world to lift border controls and travel restrictions. That indicates Starlux’s bumpy ride may continue for some time yet.

Meanwhile, Starlux also flagged to Executive Traveller the likelihood of its joining an alliance when more established. Given local rival Eva Air is a member of the Star Alliance, and China Airlines is firmly ensconced in the SkyTeam family, there are no prizes for which alliance Starlux might first flirt with.

But with oneworld members Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific also based in the North Asia neighborhood, is there room in the oneworld alliance for a third airline from the region?

Source : Simple Flying More   

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