XL Airways was a British low-cost charter and scheduled airline, which ceased operations when it went into administration on 12 September 2008. Its headquarters were in Crawley, West Sussex, near London Gatwick Airport. It was part of the XL Leisure Group. XL Airways is a trading name for XL Airways UK Limited. The airline provided short-haul and long-haul charter services predominantly to leisure destinations from its three bases at London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow.
The airline also operated services from Newcastle, Bristol, East Midlands, Birmingham, Ireland West Airport Knock. Two other airlines within the group use the XL Airways branding; XL Airways France and XL Airways Germany are not affected by the insolvency of the XL Leisure Group.
The airline was established in 1994 as Sabre Airways and started operations on 17 December 1994. The name Excel was adopted following the acquisition in November 2000 of a 67% stake by Libra Holidays Group, and subsequently increased. In March 2004 the Avion Group (now Eimskipafélag Íslands) completed the purchase of 40.5% of the Excel Airways Group. As a new charter airline, Excel concentrated on flights from Gatwick and Manchester to holiday destinations including Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Spain, the Canaries, St Lucia and Egypt.