Holidaymakers whose plans were thrown into chaos by the collapse of travel firm Thomas Cook have praised the efforts of staff to get them home to the Fylde coast.
The tourism giant announced yesterday at 2am that it had ceased trading – leaving 9,000 people out of work.
An estimated 150,000 Britons were left stranded after a last-ditch rescue deal fell through and the doors closed at Thomas Cook shops across the Fylde coast in Poulton Street, Kirkham; Birley Street Blackpool; Marton Asda; Victoria Road, Cleveleys; Clifton Street, Lytham; and at the Burlington Centre, St Annes.
The UK’s largest peacetime repatriation has been launched, with the Government and the Civil Aviations Authority launching rescue flights to get people home.
Holidaymakers already abroad will be flown home as close as possible to their original return time and date.
All future Thomas Cook bookings have been cancelled, affecting around one million people.
Among those affected was Frances Walker, from Newton-With-Scales, on holiday with husband Jim on the Greek island of Kefalonia.
She praised the professionalism of the staff at the resort but said it had been worrying for holidaymakers facing being stranded.
She said: “It has gone very smoothly now after the initial shock of finding out the news this morning.
“We went on the CAA website and our flight is the same time tomorrow.
“A staff member at the Golden Pacifae resort where we are staying did offer to take us to the airport as transfers were not clear however the now unemployed Thomas Cook rep came to tell us the transfers will go ahead.
“As long as we get home I don’t care but it has put a dampener on the last few days. The Thomas Cook rep has been really lovely and it’s upsetting she is now out of the job.”
Gazette reporter Shelagh Parkinson was in Lesbos with husband Clive, as fears for the company grew last week and flew back on one of the last Thomas Cook flights on Saturday.
She said: “The crew were amazing considering they didn’t know if they would have a job by Monday, and the captain said it was their ‘professional pride’ to get us all back safely.
“We had been aware during the last days of our holiday the company was close to collapse so we were very lucky our flight was not affected.
“It’s sad to see such a long established travel company go out of business.”
Travel agent Philip Nuttall from four-generation family firm Travel Village, in Highfield Road, said although Thomas Cook’s money troubles were widely known in recent weeks, the collapse into administration was still a major blow.
He said staff had been working through the night to help people who had booked through Thomas Cook.
He added: “We put together a contingency plan on Friday morning in case anything happened with Thomas Cook following all the rumours last week and our team has been on the phone trying to help and reassure holidaymakers since 2am when the announcement was made.
“We were re-booking people’s holidays at 3am.
“We were hoping Thomas Cook would come through, all of the travel agent extended family will be trying their best to help people. It is very sad.
“We have had calls from people abroad at the moment who are obviously worried. It’s an ongoing situation and the CAA has set up a dedicated website at thomascook.caa.co.uk to help people who are now abroad.”
The 178-year-old business’ collapse came after it was unable to secure the extra £200m needed to keep it afloat.
Unions representing its 9,000 staff had previously urged the Government to intervene financially.
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “Globally travel is an enormous growing industry and the way in which it is structured is moving at a face pace.
“There are a number of issues which are weakening traditional tour operators including budget airlines, the internet and changing holiday behaviours.
“We’ve seen the company closing shops in an attempt to reduce overheads yet there were still more than 500 outlets in existence which has resulted in greater costs to Thomas Cook compared to those online operators.
“We are devastated for the people who are stranded on their holidays and especially for those employees who may lose their jobs.”