A low-cost Cypriot airline which serves UK airports has ceased trading.
Cobalt, which operated flights to and from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted airports, cancelled all flights from 11.50pm on Wednesday.
A statement on its website advised passengers not to go to airports as “no Cobalt flights will operate and no Cobalt staff will be present”.
It added: “We sincerely apologise once again and would like to thank our very loyal customers for their support over the last two years of Cobalt operations.”
Cyprus’ ministry of transport advised stranded passengers to book a flight home on another airline and keep “all the evidence and receipts to be eligible for reimbursement”.
Passengers due to fly with Cobalt in the next seven days “will be informed with subsequent announcements for arrangements for their repatriation”, according to the statement.
Cyprus’ transport minister Vassiliki Anastassiadou wrote on Twitter: “Hard times. Our thoughts are close to the staff of Cobalt. At the same time, we (will) do everything possible to minimise the inconvenience of passengers.”
The Cyprus market is now well served by the leading low cost carriers who are much better placed to withstand these pressures and to price aggressivelyJohn Strickland, aviation consultant
Travel firms who sold Atol-protected package holidays with Cobalt flights are responsible for providing alternative flights to bring people home or full refunds for those with future bookings.
But the only protection for anyone who made flight-only purchases is through credit or debit card providers or travel insurance policies.
Theatre director Shane Morgan, 44, from Bristol, booked a £60 flight direct with Cobalt last week to fly from Athens to Gatwick on Tuesday.
Following the collapse of the airline, he booked a new journey home involving two flights at a cost of £220, taking seven hours longer than planned.
He told the Press Association: “I woke up this morning and found out they were no longer operating. There’s no-one to talk to, no customer service.
“What was dead cheap has turned into a small fortune.
“It’s incredibly frustrating. What would ordinarily have been a very relaxed morning has turned into a mad panic online, which I’m sure is the case for many people.”
Mr Morgan described the chances of recouping his losses as “next to zero”.
He added: “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
Cobalt’s failure comes after Danish budget carrier Primera Air ceased trading earlier this month.
Aviation consultant John Strickland said all airlines are facing “dramatically increased costs” due to rising fuel prices.
He said: “For an airline like Cobalt that’s especially challenging ahead of the weaker winter season.
“The Cyprus market is now well served by the leading low cost carriers who are much better placed to withstand these pressures and to price aggressively.
“Ryanair has aircraft based in Cyprus, making life very tough for a small player like Cobalt.”
Luton-based easyJet and Romanian airline Blue Air are offering lower “rescue fares” for passengers with Cobalt bookings on certain routes.