Travel plans in ruins as tour firm Holidays 4 UK goes bust
The holiday plans of around 1,500 Northern Ireland sun-seekers have been ruined after a tour operator went out of business.
Up to 400 local travellers have already flown out to Dalaman in south-west Turkey, but will now be making anxious phone calls home after low-cost operator Holidays 4 UK went bust.
In total, around 12,000 UK holidaymakers are thought to be on breaks with the business, which had an annual turnover of around £35m.
While administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers have said that anyone who has already embarked on a week or fortnight's holiday will be flown home at the end of their break, all flights have been cancelled for those who were travelling out.
Anyone in that position is advised to contact their travel agent and the Civil Aviation Authority to arrange an alternative holiday or get a refund.
The Brighton-based operator ran charter flights and packages to destinations in Turkey, and has been flying out of Belfast International Airport for two years.
As it held an Air Travel Organisers' Licence (ATOL), customers are protected in the event of a business collapse.
Ian Oakley-Smith, joint administrator and director at PwC, said: "The company has suffered because of the difficulties faced by the travel industry during 2010 and 2011, as a result of the economic downturn.
"The director has determined that the business is no longer able to trade and placed the company into administration."
Staff have been made redundant, he added.
Doreen McKenzie, the Northern Ireland spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents, said many travel agents across the province booked breaks for customers through Holidays 4 UK.
"A Tuesday flight was scheduled to go out every week between now and the end of September.
"If full, those flights would be carrying between 1,500 and 1,700 people."
But she added: "It's unusual for a company to fail in the middle of the high season. Usually it happens at off-peak times."
Holidays 4 UK operated flights with Turkish airline Onur Air, which is still in business.
Ms McKenzie said the company where she works, Knock Travel, was looking for an alternative holiday for a party who had been due to fly to Dalaman later this month.
Deborah Harris, public relations manager at Belfast International Airport, said: "If you are due to fly with them in the future, you need to contact the Civil Aviation Authority who will deal with your claim.
"But anyone who is there already will still be getting their holiday.
"It is likely they will be flown back with Onur Air, who will be paid to fly them home by the Civil Aviation Authority."
The Civil Aviation Authority said it will ensure all customers of Holidays 4 UK on holiday at the minute will be flown home as planned. They should check the website of ATOL for any changes to flight times. The CAA said it was also working to ensure holidaymakers can stay in their accommodation. Those with forward bookings needing advice can contact the CAA on 08444 933037.