So the third-largest package tour company in the UK has gone belly-up. XL (funny name for a company) grounded all its planes last night, leaving around 70,000 travellers stranded abroad, and around 200,000 people with no holidays to go on. It's a disaster, and so unexpected, Eh? Well, maybe. XL are also the shirt sponsors of Premiership football club, West Ham. One of the West Ham fan forums (a bulletin board on the "Knees up Mother Brown" website) has had a discussion about XL for the past month. A week ago, fans were posting messages about the "imminent demise" of the company, and speculating about who the next shirt sponsor should be.
So why were passengers arriving at check-in in the early hours of this morning, still unaware of the collapse of XL until the check-in staff handed them a leaflet? A glance at the past few months of XL's history says it all. In May, CEO Peter Owen said "Our future is promising" and announced a re-structure of the company called "Fit for the Future". In June, Mr Owen resigned, citing "personal reasons". In August, XL Airways cancelled Caribbean flights,blaming rising fuel costs. In early September, XL Leisure confirmed refinancing talks, which a company spokesman said had "no connection" with the Caribbean flight cancellations. Today, September 12th, the company collapsed.
So far, so disastrous. I wonder why no-one seemed to expect it? The West Ham fans saw it coming. As one said last week "At least I won't have to wear my shirt size on my front any more". Maybe the financial journalists should spend more time on the terraces.
PS - Top marks to Travelcounsellors.co.uk - they snapped up the google adword "xl" and now appear top right of every search screen - brilliant business.