SOFIA, Bulgaria – The last of the hundreds of tourists – most from Russia – stranded in Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Bourgas after Bulgaria Air cancelled flight tickets booked by Alma Tour over a debt dispute, would be heading home by the end of September 11 2011, the airline said.
The drama started on September 9 when the airline cancelled charters and flight bookings by Alma Tour, saying that the tour company had failed to keep up an arrear debt repayment schedule, thus defaulting on the seven million leva owed to Bulgaria Air.
The result was an estimated 800 tourists stranded in Bourgas, while incoming flights to Bulgaria also were affected. Prime Minister Boiko Borissov ordered three government ministries to facilitate a solution to the situation, and threatened that the licences of the air carrier and the tour company would be withdrawn.
A state aircraft was sent to help ferry passengers home.
Bulgaria Air said on September 11 that four flights by the carriers would take care of all stranded tourists, and said that talks with Alma Tour – which had broken down on September 10 – would resume on September 12. At the same time, the airline pledged that there would be no further flight cancellations.
Russian tour operators have helped to get Alma Tour customers to the destinations for which they had tickets.
Earlier on September 11, according to a report by television station bTV, the Bulgaria Air flights to Russia and other destinations were being paid for by the airline and by Alma Tour subsidiaries in Bulgaria and in Russia.
Some Alma Tour customers were reported to have taken a low-cost airline flight to Riga on September 11, while local media said that it was not clear when more than 100 Finnish tourists, who had been booked to leave Bulgaria on September 10, would in fact depart.
Bulgarian media reported that some hoteliers had offered to accommodate stranded foreign tourists free of charge.