‘Magnitude seven earthquake’: ripple effect of Thomas Cook’s collapse was felt all over the world
It was when passengers on Thomas Cook’s final flight from Las Vegas to Manchester organized a whip round for the cabin crew that staff started to cry.
Upon landing, news slowly filtered through that the company had folded mid-air, and the pilots and stewards would likely not be paid. One hundred and seventy eight years of history coming to an abrupt close in the middle of the night. Its employees only becoming aware in the morning.
Gary Bell, who was on the flight, said: “It was only when we landed we realized they’d collapsed. We checked in as normal, got on the plane, when we landed we realized, because we didn’t have a gate to go to.
“The captain announced the cabin crew had been remarkable, especially since they wouldn’t be paid. That’s when collection bags went round.”
Thomas Cook had blamed unseasonably warm British weather, political instability abroad, the death of the high street travel agent and no-deal Brexit fears. But it all came down to one short sentence, read out by Peter Fankhauser, its chief -executive: “We have not been able to secure a deal to save our business.”
The ripple effect was felt all over the world. In Tunisia, some passengers at Enfidha airport were told there was no more space on the first repatriation flight and they would have to wait. Some families were asked to split up. “We don’t know where we’re staying tonight,” said Sarah Gorst, of Chester.
Also at the airport were David and Patricia Atsbury, who stayed at Les Orangers hotel in Hammamet. Staff there had blocked guests from leaving unless they paid the hotel directly, even though they had already paid through Thomas Cook.
“It was bad enough with Thomas Cook, but to have it compounded with the hotel trying to get money from guests that had already paid was even worse,” said David Atsbury.
In Greece, 50,000 Thomas Cook passengers are dotted around the mainland and islands.
Michalis Vlatakis, the head of a union of tour operators on Crete, described the collapse as a “magnitude seven earthquake.” He said that Thomas Cook had contracts with 70 per cent of the island’s hotels.
And then there were the people who never even left the UK. Matt Dominic, 43, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in May was supposed to go to Tenerife today. This was expected to be his last holiday.
His wife Lyndsay said there was no backup plan but a Just Giving page has been set up for the couple and has already raised 1,800 pounds, offering them some hope of getting away.
Ruth Morse was due to be married in Cyprus. Her brother Ben was killed by a hit-and-run driver in May 2017, but she wanted him to walk her down the aisle at her dream wedding, so had a tattoo with his name on her foot.
The family had been planning the wedding for two years as it kept them “focused and together” after such a difficult time. Now, the wedding plans are in tatters with most of the 44 guests having their flights cancelled.
But the hardest news comes for those left unemployed. Of the 21,000 staff worldwide, 9,000 are based in the UK. Former assistant product manager Brendan McGarry said: “Today I have woken up to the news that after working for Thomas Cook for 25 years I no longer have a job to go to.”