Thomas Cook holidaymakers won't be left stranded says foreign secretary

Holidaymakers will not be left stranded abroad if tour operator Thomas Cook collapses, the Foreign Secretary has said tonight as the firm’s future hung in the balance.

Thomas Cook is hoping for a last minute reprieve.
Thomas Cook is hoping for a last minute reprieve.

Dominic Raab assured the firm’s worried customers contingency planning is in place in the event the business cannot be saved.

His comments came as guests at a hotel in Tunisia report being locked in by security guards as staff demand extra money in fear it won’t be paid by the holiday company and a union leader said employees are working for the firm while not knowing if they have a job or will even get paid for this month.

Thomas Cook met with the firm’s biggest shareholder along with creditors at a City law firm in a final bid to piece together a rescue deal.

The travel company is at risk of falling into administration unless it finds £200m in extra funds. It was feared the collapse would leave 150,000 UK holidaymakers stranded. But Mr Raab said: “We have got all the contingency planning to make sure no one will be stranded.

“I don’t want to give all the details of it because it depends on the nature of how people are out there, whether they have got a package holiday or whether they just paid for the flights and sorted out something separately.”

He said contingency planning is there to avoid people being stranded.

Brian Strutton, of the British Airline Pilots Association, said lessons had not been learned from the collapse of Monarch Airlines in 2017.

“Thomas Cook is at the last chance saloon today and decisions about staff and passengers are being taken in secret. It’s a much bigger scale than Monarch. There is a real risk that if the worst comes to the worst proper arrangements may not be in place for the repatriation programme and staff are still working while not knowing if they have a job or will even get paid for this month,” he said.

He said the Government did not act on its own review which followed the Monarch collapse, adding: “This is a mess that could have been avoided. Ministers need to step forward and take responsibility for the sake of passengers and staff.”

Thomas Cook reassured customers on Saturday night that their flights continue to operate as normal and all their package holidays are ATOL-protected. However, tourists at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, say their hotel is refusing to let guests leave while demanding extra money.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), which represents workers at the company, said the Government should be ready to assist with “real financial support”. General secretary Manuel Cortes called for an urgent meeting with Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

He said in a letter: “It is incumbent upon the Government to act if required and save this iconic cornerstone of the British high street and the thousands of jobs that go with it.”

Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said: “The Government faces a simple choice between a £200m Government cash injection to save the company now versus a £600m bill to repatriate UK holidaymakers.”

It is understood that Thomas Cook has approached the Government in an attempt to plug a gap in its funding. The Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are “monitoring the situation closely”.

Local impact

Meanwhile, Dom Walker, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, is due to fly home from Tunisia tonight but said he “had not got a clue what’s happening”.

Victoria Hardwick, of Leeds, said a family holiday in December for her daughter’s 21st birthday, also in memory of her in-laws, had gone wrong after she booked flights just hours before the revelation that the firm was in trouble.

Mrs Hardwick said: “In April we lost my father-in-law and in June lost my mother-in-law. They gave us some money before they passed away as they knew, I believe, they wouldn’t be here to celebrate my daughter’s 21st.

“We booked flights with Ryanair to go to Lanzarote then got an email saying our flights have been cancelled. I kept looking for alternatives and on Wednesday about 3pm found amazing flights (with Thomas Cook). Watching the news at 9pm there was the announcement. I can try and claim money back but insurance said it’s highly unlikely I would have a successful claim. What was supposed to be a family holiday as well as a loving memory of my parents-in-law has now gone wrong.”