150,000 stranded in airport ‘carnage’
Thousands of travellers have been stranded at airports across the world following the sudden collapse of British travel company Thomas Cook, with holiday-makers describing chaos and "carnage" from Spain to New York.
Harley Hunter was waiting in line to board her flight from John F Kennedy International Airport in New York to Manchester when she was told the company had gone bust.
Her plane never turned up and instead, she and dozens of other passengers were forced to wait several hours for a back-up flight to be arranged with another airline.
Exhausted and missing her family, Ms Hunter said it was "carnage" as they waited for updates from staff. "I just need my fiancee and my bed," she said on Twitter.
Carnage in @JFKairport earlier with the news that @ThomasCookUK had collapsed as we were waiting In line to board a plane that never showed up! Luckily all getting home in the next couple of hours after waiting 4 hours so far. 😩 I just need my fiancée and my bed! #ThomasCook pic.twitter.com/Pp5FTuHvNc— Harley (@harleyhunter_) September 23, 2019
It was a similar story across the world in Europe, where Michael Swelham shared footage of hundreds of passengers waiting patiently in a terminal at Menorca Airport in Spain.
"Not going anywhere soon," he said.
Currently in Menorca airport, sitting on the floor in departures amidst several hundred people as we turned up this morning expecting to fly back to the UK with Thomas Cook. Only to find out they’ve gone bust.— Fiona Redding (@fionaredding29) September 23, 2019
In Germany, people in Frankfurt and Dusseldorf were told they could no longer travel with the German airline, Condor, if they booked with Thomas Cook companies.
Flight departure boards were also littered with cancelled flights in Croatia and Greece.
In Tunisia, things took a frightening turn when tourists were allegedly locked inside a hotel by security guards.
According to hotel guest Pat Haynes, the hotel had never been paid by Thomas Cook and was demanding nearly 3000 pounds from guests.
"Do not come to Les Orangers hotel (in) Hamamet, Tunisia, as we're all being held hostage because Thomas Cook haven't paid for our stays!" she said.
"Everyone's being charged nearly 3000 pounds to leave. The security gates are locked and no-one can leave nor can any coaches get in to take people out."
A spokesman for Thomas Cook later said the issue had been resolved and guests allowed to leave.
"We are aware that a small number of customers were asked to pay for their hotel room before leaving Les Orangers in Tunisia … this has now been resolved and customers flew home as planned. We continue to support our customers in all our resorts," they said.
ENGAGED COUPLE MAY HAVE TO CANCEL WEDDING
Thomas Cook, which was founded in 1841 by a cabinet-maker of the same name to carry anti-alcohol campaigners between English cities, ceased trading after failing to secure a last-ditch rescue deal over the weekend.
The company was unable to secure an extra $368 million demanded by its lenders, leaving 600,000 tourists - and 150,000 Britons, stranded overseas.
An emergency operation codenamed Operation Matterhorn will aim to bring home the 150,000 British tourists in what is believed to be the biggest peacetime repatriation operation in British history, the BBC reports.
Empty aircraft have already begun flying overseas to bring Thomas Cook customers home. But those who booked holidays in coming months are also feeling the sting.
Laura Thorne, 32, and Lee Grant, 43, were supposed to get married in Cyprus on October 4, but may now have to cancel their big day.
They had forked out 80,000 pounds to Thomas Cook and had 61 guests flying out, according to The Sun.
"I just think it's impossible to re-plan a whole wedding in a week. We might just have to do a holiday in Cyprus now," Ms Thorne said.
"I just can't believe it. It's so stressful. We've been planning the wedding for two years.
"I have an uncle flying over from Australia on Thursday. He was then going to fly from the UK to Cyprus on Thomas Cook. I only booked that three weeks ago as it was last minute decision for him to come. So he might now be coming from Australia for no reason.
"It's just unbelievable. I don't think anyone would have predicted this."
POLITICIANS DEMAND BOSSES PAY BACK BONUSES
The collapse has sparked a political battle in the UK, where about 13,000 workers are set to lose their jobs.
Labour MP John McDonnell said Thomas Cook executives should have to repay their bonuses after reportedly raking in more than 20 million pounds over the last five years, and asked why the government didn't do more to help.
"I'm worried for the holiday-makers. I really feel for them. But also 13,000 people will lose their jobs over this and I just think the government should have been willing to do more intervene, stabilise the situation, then allow a longer term plan to develop," he told the BBC.
"This company once was in public ownership and as a result of privatisation it's had real problems over the years I think because of issues around management and the lack of long-term planning."
Thomas Cook had asked the UK government for a bailout of up to 250 pounds, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused, saying it would be a "moral hazard" to save the company.