Thomas Cook collapses: Government plans to bring 150,000 holidaymakers back to UK
More than 150,000 holidaymakers are waiting to be repatriated after after the collapse of travel firm Thomas Cook this morning.
The holiday company had failed to secure a £200 million bailout to help it keep running.
Now all future holidays have been cancelled and 9,000 people face losing their jobs, with 1,000 of those employees being in Cambridgeshire at the headquarters in Peterborough.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it has been tasked with bringing people home, although it can only help those travellers with return flights booked for within the next two weeks.
A CAA statement said: “The Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are now working together to do everything we can to support passengers due to fly back to the UK with Thomas Cook between 23 September 2019 and 6 October 2019. Depending on your location, this will be either on CAA-operated flights or by using existing flights with other airlines.”
They added that holiday makers should check the details of their package to find out whether their flights were booked with Thomas Cook, explaining: “ Some of Thomas Cook's package holiday bookings include flights with airlines unrelated to the Thomas Cook Group. If your return flight is not with Thomas Cook's airline it may still be valid. However other elements of the package, such as accommodation and transfers might be affected.”
Following the news that Thomas Cook business has stopped trading Daniel Zeichner MP said:“What a blow to the regional economy. This is terrible news for the staff at the St Andrews Street branch in Cambridge and for over a thousand people in Peterborough who will lose their jobs. My thoughts are with them this morning.
“The way people are booking holidays is changing but this iconic brand is also another casualty of Brexit.
“The huge repatriation effort that we are now seeing shows the government can act when they want to. If only we had seen this kind of effort before the company collapsed, and indeed on the other great challenges of the day.”
How can holiday makers get home?
The repatriation flights home will start operating from today. All the details of each flight will be posted on a special website as soon as they are available.
Passengers can find out times of return flights from the countries they are tying in. Different repatriation arrangements are being made for different locations, so please check this link.
The flights will be operated by the CAA or will be existing flights with other airlines.
The CAA explained: “Where possible we are aiming for these to be as close as possible to your original return time and date.”
This repatriation programme will only be operating for the next two weeks (up to and including Sunday 6 October). After this date holiday makers will have to make their own travel arrangements. If they are ATOL protected they will be reimbursed for the cost of their new flight.
One Cambridge-based travel firm, Premier Travel, has promised that anyone with a Thomas Cook booking made through them will be "protected".
They said in a statement: "All customers that have Thomas Cook bookings through Premier Travel are 100% financially protected.
"Premier Travel has set up an emergency team at its head office in Cambourne to coordinate the efforts to contact all affected customers, both in resort and due to travel with Thomas Cook, to advise them of alternative arrangements."
Paul Waters, Director at Premier Travel, said: “Our customers and their travel plans are of the utmost importance to us at this time and our priority is communicating with them to reduce the impact of this failure.
"Our thoughts and best wishes go out to all of our colleagues and friends within the Thomas Cook Group at this time and all customers whose holidays are affected. Thomas Cook have been operating since 1841 and have been a huge supporter of independent travel agents since their inception and will be greatly missed.”
Customers with any concerns are asked to contact their local branch or telephone 0800 3164 379.