XL Airways has threatened the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC) with legal action following the publication of an article on NCADC's website implying that XL might be operating a charter flight scheduled for 30 August to 'remove' a number of failed asylum seekers to DR Congo. The charter airline had their legal representatives serve the campaigning organisation with a Notice of Intent, dated 15 August 2007, threatening to seek an injunction against NCADC if they did not remove "any mention of [their] client" from the concerned article by the end of Friday, June 17th.
A number of Congolese detainees had received Removal Directions for Thursday, 30 August, stipulating Flight Number PVT616 and Operation Castor, the operational name given to a previous charter flight, operated by XL, which carried 38 Congolese deportees last February.
XL accused NCADC of publishing "inaccurate information" and said the company does not currently have plans to operate the flight on 30 August. The letter also stressed that XL "has not (nor does it currently) operate charter flights to Afghanistan." There was, however, no mention in the letter of Operation Aardvark, the name given to the regular deportation flights to Eastern Europe every Tuesday and Thursday.
NCADC had published a message saying the new charter flight to DR Congo "will be more than likely a charter flight belonging to XL Airways." NCADC's John O said, "We've certainly rattled XL's cage." "A multi-million pound corporation," he added, "threatening a tiny NGO without a 'pot to piss in'!"
Anti-deportation campaigns typically involve writing to or faxing airlines involved with the deportations. The names and contact details of airlines are often circulated by campaigners fighting against individual or mass deportations.
XL Airways were the owners of the plane that removed 21 children and 17 adults to DR Congo on 26 February, 2007. The charter flight was dubbed Operation Castor. The February deportations then prompted UK-wide protests, including a picket at XL headquarters in Crawley, West Sussex.
Between February 2006 and June 2007, there have been over 100 charter flights to Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, Iraqi Kurdistan, DR Congo and Vietnam, removing over 2,300 refused asylum seekers from the UK. Last June alone, there were 4 charter flights to Eastern Europe and 3 to Afghanistan, in total removing 59 and 71 respectively.
Under a Freedom of Information Act request lodged by NCADC last June, the Information Commissioner revealed that the total Home Office expenditure to deport persons from the UK, via charter flights, with XL Airways for the year 2005/06 was £1,542,826.96. On 11 July, 2007, NCACD lodged another FoIA request asking for further details to the information released on 18 June regarding XL. The Home Office declined from answering saying they "do hold the further information you seek but it is not held by the Border and Immigration Agency in the format that you have requested." They did confirm, however, that "all flights with XL Airways were charter flights."
XL Airways is a trading name for XL Airways UK Limited, which is owned by XL Leisure Group, the third largest tour operating group in the UK. Following a major re-brand in November 2006, the airline's name was changed from Excel Airways to XL. With a UK Civil Aviation Authority Type A operating licence, which permits it to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats, the company provides short-haul and long-haul services to over 50 destinations in the Mediterranean, Europe, Africa and North America from 12 airports in the UK. XL Airways was chosen the "best charter airline in the world" for 2004 and 2005.