Thousands of holidaymakers have been left devastated after plans including expensive weddings and dream trips were dashed after Thomas Cook went into liquidation this morning.
The company’s final flight landed in Britain after the travel group collapsed leaving more than 160,000 Britons stranded abroad and a million more customers with cancelled holidays.
Peter Whyman and his fiancée Katy Williams fear their £50,000 wedding in Ayia Napa could be ruined as her terminally ill mother might not be able to fly out for their big day.
They are due to marry on October 2 but the wedding party’s flight to Cyprus and their hotel rooms are now at risk.
The bride’s terminally ill mother Carol Milne, 63, may have to miss out on the whole ceremony.
Peter Whyman and his fiancée Katy Williams fear their £50,000 wedding in Ayia Napa could be ruined
Ms Williams told Teesside Live: ‘I’m not sleeping. It’s horrible. I’m just numb.
‘My head is in the clouds. It’s the not knowing and the fact we can’t do anything about it.’
Offshore rigger Mr Whyman, said: ‘I have been working every bit of over time I could do for the last 18 months so my fiancé has a dream wedding.
‘We have phoned our travel agents and they didn’t know what is happening. We have phoned the hotel direct to try find out if the hotel has been paid for in case we just need to book different flights – but still no info.
‘We have been told that if Thomas Cook do go under we will lose everything.’
The couple cannot even bring themselves to tell their excited children Sienna Whyman, 9, Mia Whyman, 8, and Owen Chaney, 7, that the wedding is in jeopardy.
The couple cannot even bring themselves to tell their excited children Sienna Whyman (left), 9, and Mia Whyman (right), 8
Owen Chaney, 7, is unaware his parents’ dream wedding in Ayia Napa is in jeopardy if Thomas Cook goes bust
Mr Whyman said: ‘I’m not telling them. I don’t know how to break it to them. It’s heartbreaking for them.
‘It’s just a waiting game now and we just hope Thomas Cook find the money.’
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced this morning that the company had ‘ceased trading with immediate effect’ after last-minute talks to save it broke down.
More than 150,000 British holidaymakers who are abroad will have to be repatriated back to the UK and the CAA and the government has announced it will aim to get them home by October 6.
A number of support schemes have also been set up to help Thomas Cook employees.
Its final flight – an Airbus A330 from Orlando – touched down at Manchester Airport at 9am bringing down the curtain on the company’s 178 year history.
The last Thomas Cook flight into the UK lands at Manchester airport after taking off from Orlando overnight
It has collapsed with the loss of more than 21,000 jobs worldwide including 1,000 in Peterborough – some of whom were seen crying as they went to work this morning.
Trapped in Menorca with eight-month-old daughter
Katherine Mann, 31, a finance worker from Hertfordshire, is trapped in Menorca airport with her partner, civil servant Daniel Hill and their eight-month-old daughter Penelope after a week-long holiday.
Katherine Mann, 31, a finance worker from Hertfordshire, is trapped in Menorca airport with her partner, civil servant Daniel Hill and their eight-month-old daughter
Their return flight to London was supposed to leave at 11.30am, but a tannoy announcement has told them to ignore official departure times completely.
‘This was our first holiday together as a family,’ she told MailOnline, ‘and over the last few days we were constantly anxious due to the lack of information.
‘Everyone at our resort was whispering in corners, nobody knew what was going on. There was no Thomas Cook representative and no information. It was just Chinese whispers.’
She arrived at the airport this morning to find ‘scenes of absolute chaos’.
‘All the check-ins for Thomas Cook are shut so there’s a huge backlog of people,’ she said. ‘We’ve already been queuing for an hour.
‘The only information we had was an announcement over the tannoy that we should ignore departure times. None of the earlier flights departed and there is talk of coaches between Birmingham and Manchester.’
A representative of the British Government wearing a hi-viz jacket with a Union flag on the back ticked off passenger names against the flight manifest, she said, but was unable to provide any information.
The couple’s return flight to London was supposed to leave at 11.30am, but a tannoy announcement has told them to ignore official departure times completely
The only food outlet in the immediate vicinity is a vending machine, she added, raising fears that she will be unable to feed her baby.
‘My daughter is OK for now but we only have a few bits of food and milk to last a short amount of time,’ she said. ‘It’s warm but not unbearable, though it might become so later on.
‘No food or water has been provided. Nobody has fainted yet but I think that is inevitable.’
She added: ‘It is a shame that Thomas Cook has ceased trading but I feel this could have been managed better.’
The only food outlet in the immediate vicinity is a vending machine, she added, raising fears that she will be unable to feed her baby. Pictured at the airport
Couple’s dream honeymoon in Maldives is scrapped
Also affected were a host of future holidaymakers back in the UK who were awaiting trips they had booked with Thomas Cook.
This included Lewis and Amy Bromiley from Manchester, who were looking forward to their honeymoon in the Maldives after getting married in August.
Mr Bromiley, a 25-year-old insurance worker from Manchester, said: ‘We’ve got our honeymoon package booked which was the last one available in January, and now it’s cancelled.
‘It appears we won’t be able to go to the same place now, and will have to wait a while to get our £7,000 refunded.
‘We’ll have to wait for the refund which could takes months, due to the amount of people claiming.
Also affected were a host of future holidaymakers back in the UK who were awaiting trips they had booked with Thomas Cook – including Lewis and Amy Bromiley from Manchester, who were looking forward to their honeymoon after getting married in August (pictured)
‘We won’t be able to rebook now, we’ll have to change destination as this was the last availability.
‘We booked it over a year ago, so we were well prepared and had got the best deal.
‘Me and my wife are devastated.
‘We wanted to go to Maldives as it’s paradise and we’re looking to plan for children soon, so we wanted to tick it off out bucket list, before we couldn’t.’
Mr Bromiley criticised the way the situation had been handled.
He said: ‘It was poorly communicated, and their closing statement is poor also.
‘They should still manage the Twitter account for the next 48 hours, to give people the peace of mind they deserve.’
A £100million taxpayer-funded fleet of 40 or more jets are today heading to Europe, the US and Asia to start bringing 160,000 Britons home from more than 50 destinations over the coming fortnight.
The first rescue jet has now left New York’s JFK airport headed for Manchester with over 300 passengers on board and will arrive at 5pm today.
Terminally-ill father could lose final holiday with wife
Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation effort, codenamed Operation Matterhorn, will see around 16,000 people flown back to UK airports every day.
But for one couple the move brings little comfort, with terminally-ill father-of-three Matt Dominic fearing he may lose his final holiday with his wife.
Mr Dominic, 43, and his wife Lyndsay, 42, were planning a week in Tenerife after their lives were shattered when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last May.
Terminally-ill Matt Dominic and his wife Lyndsay fear they’ll miss out on the last holiday together after Thomas Cook went bust
Former Rolls Royce worker Mr Dominic, from Derby, was given six months to live more than a year ago and feared the break could be his last.
He was hoping to spend ‘kids-free’ time with his wife starting tomorrow after well-wishers helped raise the £1,800 cost of the getaway.
But the couple say they have been unable to get through to Thomas Cook or the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Mrs Dominic, who works for Morrisons supermarket, said: ‘He was really looking forward to it. He’s not got a lot to look forward to, bless him.
The couple, who have three children, were planning a final kids-free week together in the sun
‘We’re beyond fed up. We were toying with packing yesterday but we were preparing for the worst.
‘Matt’s got a stinking cold so he was up at 4am this morning – that’s when we found out. We don’t have a back-up plan.’
The couple’s holiday is covered by ATOL and they expect to get their money back – But they fear there will not be enough time to arrange another break.
Mrs Dominic added: ‘It’s not possible for us to book another holiday unless we get our money back. And I keep reading that it could take up to two months to get refunded.
‘I don’t blame the Thomas Cook staff at all. It’s not their fault. They were kept in the dark as well – I really felt for them to be honest.
‘The bosses are a different matter. They’re all in it for themselves.’
The couple say they have not been able to get hold of the holiday firm or the CAA
Fuming customer demands £2,000 refund for booking
Another furious Thomas Cook customer blasted the stricken tour operator after she paid £2,000 to book her first ever holiday to Turkey before the firm collapsed.
The customer, who said she was set to travel with her mother and sister in May, hit out at Thomas Cook and warned: ‘I better get my money back or I’ll go off.’
Speaking to an LBC reporter, the woman who was not named, said angrily: ‘I want to see what’s going to happen with my money. I better get it back or I’ll go off. I better get it back I’m telling you.’
Speaking to an LBC reporter, the woman who was not named, said angrily: ‘I want to see what’s going to happen with my money. I better get it back or I’ll go off. I better get it back I’m telling you’
She added: ‘I ain’t amused, I ain’t happy about it either,’ before explaining that her mother had the details of their travel and she was not sure what part of Turkey they were travelling to.
The woman, who said that she had not been contacted directly by Thomas Cook, is one of thousands of travellers in limbo after their holiday plans were scuppered by the firms’ collapse.
The customer added: ‘I ain’t amused, I ain’t happy about it either,’ before explaining her mother had the details of their travel and she was not sure what part of Turkey they were travelling to
Couple fork out for new tickets to Mexico for dream trip
Stephen Tarren and Joanne Deveraux-Ward from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire were yet more victims left stranded on UK shores.
But they paid more than £1,200 for new tickets to Cancun in Mexico.
Stephen Tarren and Joanne Deveraux-Ward (pictured together) from Cheltenham in Gloucestershire said they had paid more than £1,200 for new tickets to Cancun in Mexico
Airport chauffeur Mr Tarren, 51, said they had originally booked the holiday at Christmas and paid £1,400 each.
Ms Deveraux-Ward, 49, added: ‘I think more could have been done to prepare people.
‘I’m really disappointed.’
Thomas Cook’s check-in at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal was deserted this morning.
A message on screens at the check-in read: ‘Thomas Cook has ceased trading and all flights are cancelled.
‘Visit thomascook.caa.co.uk or call 0300 303 2800.’
Thomas Cook check in desks at Gatwick Airport are closed today after the travel firm collapsed in the early hours today
Check-in at Thomas Cook at Gatwick showed people queuing for flights without knowing how they might return
A group of five people in Foreign and Commonwealth Office hi-vis jackets are at the check-in entrance to give help to passengers.
A few passengers arrived at the airport.
Despite the unease, many tourists spoken to by the Daily Mail abroad on Sunday vowed to continue enjoying their holiday.
Jacqui and Steve Butler from Stoke-on-Trent arrived in Ibiza yesterday morning.
The couple left their children, aged 24 and 22, back in England. Postman Mr Butler, 47, joked: ‘I’ve told the kids if we are not back by December then they can get worried.’
Jacqui and Steve Butler (pictured) from Stoke-on-Trent arrived in Ibiza Sunday morning. The couple left their children, aged 24 and 22, back in England. Postman Mr Butler, 47, joked: ‘I’ve told the kids if we are not back by December then they can get worried’
Retired teaching assistant Pat Fleming, 72, said she visited a Thomas Cook travel agency on Saturday looking to cancel her trip after reading about the company’s financial problems.
‘I wanted to cancel because I was frightened thinking I wouldn’t be able to get back to England or the holiday would be ruined.
‘But they told me to just act like normal. It seemed strange after I had read they might ground flights. I am worried about not getting home. The travel agent said don’t take any notice of it. They told us to carry on as normal.’
Because the company is covered by Atol protection, package holiday tourists already abroad have been assured that plans will be put in place to bring them home.
Retired teaching assistant Pat Fleming, 72 (pictured with her husband Dennis), said she visited a Thomas Cook travel agency on Saturday looking to cancel her trip after reading about the company’s financial problems
Barbara Soar, 70, from Barnsley, also bemoaned the operator’s lack of communication with affected passengers.
‘We have not seen a Thomas Cook rep, not even once,’ she said. ‘We haven’t got a clue what’s going on. We don’t know what’s happening. We would expect them to be helping us but I imagine they’ve jumped on the plane and gone home themselves.
‘It’s a real shame about Thomas Cook. The very first holiday I had in 1973 was a package with Thomas Cook – it’s a shame as they have been going so long.’
Despite fears over return trips to Britain, the overwhelming feeling on the party island was to continue enjoying the sun, sea and sangria until the last possible moment.
Nursery assistant Georgina Humphries and four friends arrived in Ibiza from their homes in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday for a three-day trip.
The 21-year-old said: ‘We are not too fussed. I’m sure we’ll get back, one way or another. I don’t mind if I stay – if I’ve got to stay, it’s happy days really!
‘We were reading about it before we travelled but it didn’t put us off. We aren’t going to let it spoil our holiday.’
Nicole from Swansea, who did not wish to give her surname, said she was ‘absolutely devastated’ at the closure of the firm she had booked with, which came before her ‘very first holiday’.
‘And now we have the stress of trying to fix this and sort it all out,’ she added.
‘I am truly gutted, but also devastated for the people who are stranded on their holidays and for the employees who have lost their jobs with no warning, and this close to Christmas.
‘It’s such a shame.’
Jane and Richard Dawson, who tied the knot on Friday, stayed at a hotel at Gatwick Airport overnight in preparation for their 10-hour flight.
Jane and Richard Dawson, who tied the knot on Friday, stayed at a hotel at Gatwick Airport (pictured) overnight in preparation for their 10-hour flight
Mrs Dawson said: ‘We’ve been told to go home. I know it’s no one’s fault, but it’s just very sad.’ Pictured: A file photo of a Thomas Cook plane at Gatwick
But the newlyweds, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, where the world’s oldest travel operator was based, woke up to find that their flight to Jamaica had been cancelled along with hundreds of others.
The couple, who were due to fly at 11.45am today, were told to go home by airport staff.
Mrs Dawson said: ‘We’ve been told to go home. I know it’s no one’s fault, but it’s just very sad.’
Mr Dawson said: ‘Because we booked through Thomas Cook, we were told the reservation wouldn’t be honoured.
The liquidation comes amid accusations that directors of the struggling icon failed to ‘future-proof’ a firm that ‘operated in brochures while the world had moved onto barcodes’
‘So, yeah, we’re spending our honeymoon at home.
‘We’ll try and see if we can get away for the rest of the week tomorrow, but right now we’re going home.’
But even though the devastating news has hit them at the worst time, they are still determined to start married life happy.
Mrs Dawson said: ‘Our wedding day was beautiful. It was a really wonderful day. Today can’t change that.’
Another couple were set to go on their first long-haul flight together.
Lucy and Michelle, from London, had been struggling to get another flight for three hours before giving up.
The jetsetters found out the news about Thomas Cook while in a taxi to Gatwick.
Lucy and Michelle, from London, had been struggling to get another flight for three hours before giving up. The jetsetters found out the news about Thomas Cook while in a taxi to Gatwick (pictured)
Lucy said: ‘We were on our way to Mexico for a week.
‘We’ve been here since 6.15am just trying to sort something out.
‘We were told that as we booked through Thomas Cook and staying at a Thomas Cook hotel, there’s no chance we’d be able to fly today.
‘I hoped that maybe we’d be able to book something hot last minute. We don’t want to go to Europe as it’s not what we wanted. Everything else is just too expensive.
‘I wish we had booked it for two days ago. Even if we were stranded somewhere, at least we’d be on holiday.’
The couple decided to go home and try again tomorrow, hoping to use the rest of the time booked off work on holiday somewhere warm.
Lucy added: ‘We’re just pi**** off.’
Lucy Jessop from Hull has been holidaying in Mexico for two weeks and said she had been set to fly to Manchester with Thomas Cook on Tuesday.
Lucy Jessop from Hull has been holidaying in Mexico for two weeks and said she had been set to fly to Manchester (pictured, the airport today) with Thomas Cook on Tuesday
She said she was ‘initially worried’ after hearing about the company’s closure but the Government had been ‘amazing’ in organising an alternative flight.
Ms Jessop said: ‘It’s the employees of Thomas Cook and all those due to go on holiday I feel for.
‘We were the lucky ones, I suppose.’
Ms Jessop said she was ‘initially worried’ after hearing about the company’s closure but the Government had been ‘amazing’ in organising an alternative flight to Manchester (pictured today)
One of those considering herself unlucky was an 18-year-old English woman whose single mother worked for Thomas Cook for almost 20 years.
The teenager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her mother had ‘known her job was vulnerable for the past few days but only found out she is unemployed when the news came out that Thomas Cook is over’.
She added that she was the eldest of three daughters, the youngest of whom is 10 years old, and the now the only person in her home with a job.
‘I have a part-time job with around 15 hours a week so the next few months will be a huge struggle for us.
‘Especially since it’s Christmas soon.’
About 50,000 tourists are stranded in Greece, mainly on islands, after Thomas Cook’s collapse, a Greek tourism ministry official said.
About 50,000 tourists are stranded in Greece, mainly on islands (pictured, Heraklion airport on Crete), after Thomas Cook’s collapse, a Greek tourism ministry official said
The tourists, mainly British, were vacationing on the islands of Zakynthos, Kos, Corfu, Skiathos and Crete, the official said.
‘The top priority now is to get them back home,’ the official said, declining to be named.
The head of Greece’s hotel federation said Thomas Cook’s financial collapse would be a significant blow for hoteliers, since many vacation packages were not prepaid.
‘The situation is quite difficult. It does not affect just British tourists but other nationalities as well,’ Grigoris Tassios told state TV ERT.
The head of Greece’s (pictured, Crete) hotel federation said Thomas Cook’s financial collapse would be a significant blow for hoteliers, since many vacation packages were not prepaid
He said many hotels were expected to make losses on payments affecting vacation packages for the last two months, meaning ‘many millions of euros.’
‘Up to October 15 there are high occupancies, so we will suffer losses from this segment, too,’ Tassios said.
He said hotel companies would turn to the courts to try and recover money owed by Thomas Cook.
The company’s collapse could be a blow to tourism in its biggest destinations, including Greece, leaving fuel suppliers out of pocket and forcing hundreds of travel agents to shut down across British high streets
But the Greek tourism confederation SETE said the industry has the depth and quality to overcome the hit. It called on the government to come up with specific measures to help companies absorb the problems that will arise.
Greece has been experiencing an upsurge in tourism in the last years with a record number of 33 million visitors last year. Tourism accounts for about a quarter of economic output.
In Tunisia, a group of 30 Britons were told to hand over thousands of pounds on Saturday, despite having already paid Thomas Cook for their hotel stay.
This picture taken by a British holidaymaker shows the locked gates of a Tunisian hotel where staff are allegedly keeping guests shut in until they are paid
Guests are said to be locked in the Tunisian beach resort where staff are demanding money as they fear Thomas Cook will not pay its bills
Guards were stationed at the locked gates of Les Orangers, in the resort town of Hammamet, as staff insisted the customers needed to pay again in order to leave.
Sophie Rees, 24, from Swansea, said: ‘We did not pay them. We already had paid Thomas Cook and it sounded a little bit dodgy. However a woman, who I would say was in her late 80s or early 90s, paid £2,500.’
Thomas Cook staff were seen hugging each other in tears at its headquarters in Cambridgeshire today following news of its collapse.
Hundreds of employees were seen heading into the offices at Lynch Wood in Peterborough for a 10am meeting about the compulsory liquidation, which happened this morning after a weekend of talks to save the company.
Thomas Cook staff were seen hugging each other in tears at its headquarters in Cambridgeshire following news of its collapse
Many looked tearful as they arrived at the headquarters, which employs around 1,000 people
Many looked tearful as they arrived at the headquarters, which employs around 1,000 people.
Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 and was one of the world’s oldest travel companies.
It employed around 9,000 people in the UK and had around 600 high street stores.