Another 16,700 Thomas Cook customers are set to return home on 76 flights from countries across the world today, the UK’s civil aviation regulator has revealed.
More than half of customers left stranded abroad have been brought back to the UK since the country’s largest peacetime repatriation was launched on Monday.
The Civil Aviation Authority is expected to pay around £100million to fly 150,000 holidaymakers home after the travel giant went in to compulsory liquidation.
Some 76,121 passengers have been returned so far – with 73,879 expected to be flown back over the next week.
A Thomas Cook A330 – impounded at Glasgow airport following the collapse of the company
Customers disembark a Thomas Cook plane at Bristol Airport after it was used as part of the repatriation on September 25
The repatriation, named Operation Matterhorn, will end on Sunday, October 6. And an average of 70 flights are scheduled to leave destinations around the world daily.
Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said: ‘After five days, Operation Matterhorn has now flown home over half of the 150,000 customers who were abroad at the time Thomas Cook stopped trading.
‘We aim to bring home the rest at the end of their holiday. An operation of this scale and complexity will inevitably cause some inconvenience and disruption and I would like to thank holidaymakers for bearing with us as we work around the clock to bring them back.
‘I am very grateful for the assistance provided by all of our aviation, train, coach and many other partners who are helping us to deliver the biggest ever peacetime repatriation operation.’
On Wednesday two flight attendants were pictured in tears after their passengers gave them a standing ovation and organised a ‘bloody generous’ whip around.
Dressed in their full uniform despite no longer being employed by Thomas Cook the cabin crew organised teas and coffees in lieu of a trolley service.
And Michelle Jubb posted on social media thanking them for their work – after helping gather money from her fellow passengers to offer to the crew.
It comes after hundreds of devastated former employees met union officials at Manchester Airport to see if they could claim thousands of pounds in lost wages.
Many are owed up to seven weeks’ pay and are furious that bosses continued to take ‘film star wages’ and award themselves huge bonuses as the world’s oldest travel firm teetered on the brink.
On Wednesday two flight attendants were pictured in tears after their passengers gave them a standing ovation and organised a ‘bloody generous’ whip around
Former Thomas cook employees Mike Kilburn, Emma Kenny and Laura Tremarco (left to right) appeared at Manchester Airport meeting to discuss options for displaced employees
Reduced to tears: Betty Knight broke down while at the meeting, surrounded by other former members of staff
Thomas Cook’s demise could not be announced until all its planes were back on the ground in the UK
The Government has announced an inquiry into the company’s management and directors including chief executive Peter Fankhauser are likely to be hauled before MPs.
They will be expected to explain why they collectively took a £47million pay packet – including £29million in bonuses – as profits fell.
Bosses are likely to be questioned on rumours that they siphoned millions from the UK arm of the airline to keep German subsidiary Condor afloat hours before Thomas Cook went under in the early hours of Monday morning.
500 former members of cabin crew staff gathered at Manchester airport joined by union leaders from The United Union
Signage at Bristol Airport telling customers that Thomas Cook has gone to the wall and all flights and holidays are cancelled
Wes Streeting, a Labour member of the Commons Treasury committee, said: ‘Serious questions need to be asked not just of the latest crop of bosses but the former executives whose actions may have led to this catastrophe for Thomas Cook staff and customers.’
Around 9,000 staff lost their jobs and 165,000 holidaymakers were stranded abroad, prompting the biggest repatriation in peacetime, when Thomas Cook went bust.
On Thursday more than 400 cabin crew and engineers gathered at a hotel at Manchester Airport to meet officials from Unite.
They were told they are unlikely to receive any wages on Monday – their pay day – and face a long wait for redundancy pay.
During the emotional meeting employees criticised the ‘disgusting’ behaviour of bosses, accusing them of ‘stealing our children’s futures’.
‘We had pay freezes… they were greedy’
Among those at Thursday’s union meeting in Manchester were Betty Knight, 52, who said she had barely slept or eaten since Thomas Cook collapsed in the early hours of Monday.
The part-time air hostess, who has worked in the industry for almost 30 years, came to the Unite meeting in her uniform and repeatedly wept as she described feeling ‘heartbroken’.
‘It’s a worrying time,’ said Miss Knight, who is engaged to be married. ‘I’ve been the main breadwinner for a while in our household.
‘Our family and friends have offered to help and I know I will be OK financially, but Thomas Cook is made up predominantly of women and it is the single mothers I really feel for. It will hit so many of them so hard.’
She accused bosses of ‘greed’ at a time when staff were told to keep the business ‘lean’. She said: ‘We had pay freezes and everything down to the last paperclip was accounted for. There should be an inquiry – it stinks.’
Lawyers encouraged the staff to join 100 of their colleagues who signed up to take legal action via employment tribunals against the travel giant.
The solicitors said Thomas Cook acted unlawfully by failing to keep its employees properly informed before the collapse, meaning thousands could be entitled to up to 90 days’ pay as compensation.
Many at the meeting broke down in tears and described the events of the past few days as feeling ‘like a bereavement’.
Staff said they were worried about paying their mortgages, have been forced to use charity food vouchers and were relying on friends and family for financial help after finding themselves suddenly out of work.
Cabin manager Laura Tremarco, 39, who had worked at Thomas Cook for the past 22 years, said she met Mr Fankhauser at an event several years ago.
‘He seemed like a nice guy, but little did we know he and the rest of them were taking these massive wages,’ the mother-of-two from Liverpool added. ‘It is disgusting.
‘I was supposed to get paid around £3,000 with commission on Monday, but we’re not getting any of that. I feel so angry and sad.’
There were tears at Thomas Cook’s Peterborough HQ as staff left with their belongings after 9,000 UK workers lost their jobs
Thomas Cook check in desks at Gatwick Airport closed after the travel firm collapsed in the early hours
Passengers wait for news at the Thomas Cook check-in at Mallorca Airport as 40 planes were sent around the world to bring people home on Monday
Mike Kilburn, 47, a cabin manager with 19 years’ service, called on directors to hand back their ‘bonuses so that money can be distributed to everyone here’.
He said: ‘It’s sickening they were taking that amount out of the firm – in my mind they are crooks.’
Unite’s Mike Gaskell said: ‘We’ve seen film star wages being taken out of a business for what ultimately was failure. People have a right to be angry.’
Philip Richardson, of Stephensons Solicitors, said employees could be entitled to a ‘protective award’ of up to 90 days’ pay from employment tribunals because they were not given notice of the firm’s perilous financial situation.
Labour transport spokesman Andy McDonald said: ‘The Government must ensure Thomas Cook staff are properly compensated.’