Spanish charter carrier Futura International Airways was struggling to resume flying as Travel Weekly went to press after seeking bankruptcy protection on Monday, leaving many UK tour operators to find alternative flights.


TUI Travel was among those affected, with Irish brand Falcon Holidays having to replace 10 flights after Irish authorities revoked the air-operating licence of Futura’s Dublin-based subsidiary Futura Gael.


The Irish carrier ceased all operations. All other Futura flights were cancelled from Monday, with the Spanish aviation authority giving the carrier until the end of this week to come up with a rescue package.


No one from Futura was available for comment and the number of UK passengers affected was unclear, but it is believed 25,000 passengers across Europe were left without flights this week. Futura carried 3.7 million passengers last year.


The UK Civil aviation Authority is not involved in the bankruptcy. But Federation of Tour Operators director-general Andy Cooper confirmed: “Futura did a lot of flying for small and medium-size operators in the UK.”


He said: “It is for tour operators to find replacement aircraft, although that should not be a problem at this time of year.”


A TUI Travel UK spokeswoman said: “First Choice and Thomson have a minimal number of passengers travelling with Futura. Alternative flights are being confirmed for those booked to travel immediately and we are exploring options for those travelling later.”


Futura is based in Palma and operated charter services from several UK airports, primarily to Majorca, Malaga, Tenerife and Gran Canaria. It employs 1,200 staff, with up to 100 in Dublin.


Airline bosses have proposed halving the group’s fleet of 38 aircraft, of which about 20 operate charter services. Futura also leases aircraft to a number of leading airlines.


The company called in advisors on restructuring in August and proposed substantial wage cuts for its staff in Dublin.


It is the first dedicated leisure airline to file for bankruptcy in the current aviation downturn, which most recently brought down long-haul budget carrier Zoom Airlines.


The latest collapse highlights again the value of the consumer protection offered by traditional package holidays.


Futura began flying in 1990 as a joint venture between Spanish investment bank Banco Santander and Irish flag-carrier Aer Lingus. Its first service flew between Palma and Manchester. Aer Lingus sold its remaining stake in the carrier last year.