Thomson and First Choice have pledged to assist customers who have had their holiday disrupted following the collapse of XL.

Customers who are abroad on ATOL bonded packages with Thomson or First Choice are advised to continue with their holidays as planned. The operator will provide flights as close to the original departure dates as possible. The passengers are in Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Sardinia and Egypt.

Those who have forward booked a package through a First Choice or Thomson shop are advised to go back to the shop where staff will be able to transfer the value of their booking to another holiday.

Customers who booked with another high street agency are also advised to return to the shop where they booked. “In most cases we will be able to transfer your lost holiday value onto a First Choice or Thomson holiday with the minimum of fuss and no penalty,” said a spokesman.

TUI Travel managing director Dermot Blastland has estimated that 10,000 people have travelled with XL without ATOL protection and could be stranded overseas. The operator is offering flights at the normal price.

He said: “For quite some time we have been lobbying the government to recognise the need for a level playing field for all providers of overseas leisure travel arrrangements. We are frustrated with the government for not stepping in sooner which means we  are now faced with a situation whereby these passengers who are not ATOL protected need our assistance with repatriation and will have to pay for their flights home.”

Thomson and First Choice have set up a helpline at 0871 231 5704.