Passengers stranded across Europe have told of their frustration after the UK regional airline Flybmi collapsed, cancelling all its flights.
The company said uncertainty over Brexit and rises in fuel and carbon costs led it to go into administration.
One Briton stuck in Belgium said the airline would not refund her fare and she could not afford an alternative.
The airline has told affected travellers to contact their insurance and credit card companies.
Flybmi, which is based near East Midlands Airport, operated 17 aircraft and flew to 25 European cities.
Durham University student Mary Ward discovered her flight could be affected when her mother showed her a news report.
She then received a text from the airline that said: “URGENT: Important message for Flybmi customers. All flights are cancelled. Please go to www.flybmi.com for further details. Thank you.”
Ms Ward had been set to fly from Brussels to Newcastle but is unsure how she will return to the UK.
“I paid £130 for my flight which it doesn’t seem I’m going to get back – I don’t know how I am going to get back to Durham,” she said.
“I can’t afford any of the flights or the Eurostar.”
Richard Edwards, from West Sussex, said he and his family experienced problems with a scheduled flight to Munich when travelling to Austria for a skiing holiday.
“We had gone through security at Bristol Airport when there was an announcement saying our flight had been cancelled,” he said.
“They laid on taxis to Heathrow and booked us on a Lufthansa flight to Munich.
“I don’t know how we will get back yet. I’m not confident Flybmi will be able to sort it.”
Rory Boland, travel editor for consumer body Which?, said some customers had claimed tickets were being sold in the hours before the airline filed for administration, “knowing full well those tickets would never be honoured”.
“Passengers will rightly be outraged if this is proved to be the case,” he added.
Flybmi issued the following advice to those with flights booked:
- People who booked directly with Flybmi should contact their card issuer to seek a refund
- Passengers who booked via a travel agent or one of Flybmi’s partner airlines should contact them to ask about their options
- Those with travel insurance should see if they are eligible to claim for cancelled flights
The Civil Aviation Authority also published advice for travellers.
A spokesman for the Flybmi said: “It is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement.
“The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme.
“Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe.”
One of Flybmi’s routes, which connected Stansted and Londonderry, was subsidised by the government to boost trade and travel between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Several people use the flights for work and Derry Strabane Council said it was in emergency talks with the Department of Transport to seek a replacement airline for the route.
British Airline Pilots’ Association general secretary Brian Strutton said: “The collapse of Flybmi is devastating news for all employees.
“Regrettably Balpa had no warning or any information from the company at all.”
“Our immediate steps will be to support Flybmi pilots and explore with the directors and administrators whether their jobs can be saved.”
The airline had just under 400 staff, who last year operated 29,000 flights carrying 522,000 passengers.
Flying from Aberdeen, Derry, Bristol, the East Midlands, Stansted and Newcastle in the UK, its planes travelled to destinations in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland and Sweden.
Meanwhile, the airline Flybe has been reassuring passengers on social media that it is “not associated with Flybmi.”
Flybe tweeted on Saturday to say that it “has nothing to do” with the collapsed airline after concerns were raised by some passengers.
Travel expert Simon Calder told BBC News it had been an “extremely difficult winter” for many airlines.
“Small airlines which do not have the weight of their bigger rivals are particularly vulnerable,” he said. “There are simply too many seats and not enough people.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport described the situation as “very disappointing” and said the government was focused on supporting affected passengers.
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