Northern Ireland news

Around 6,000 passengers who flew with Thomas Cook from Belfast left stranded after collapse

The Thomas Cook stored at Victoria Square in Belfast was closed yesterday

AROUND 6,000 passengers who flew with Thomas Cook from Belfast International Airport have been left stranded after the collapse of the travel company.

They are among an estimated 150,000 people left in limbo after the tourism giant announced early yesterday that it had ceased trading after failing to secure a last-ditch rescue deal.

The company was unable to secure the extra £200 million needed to keep the business afloat following a full day of crucial talks with the major shareholder and creditors on Sunday.

All future Thomas Cook bookings have also been cancelled, affecting around one million people and putting 22,000 jobs at risk worldwide.

For those tourists left stranded abroad, they are set to be brought home by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in a flight programme costing £100 million.

Holidaymakers will be flown home as close as possible to their original return time and date.

For tourists travelling back to Northern Ireland, the first repatriation flight from Turkey, was due to land at Belfast International Airport last night.

It is expected that there will be two repatriation flights each day for the fortnight to bring home passengers left stranded as a result of the collapse.

One of the world's oldest and largest travel companies, Thomas Cook had been trading for 178 years and had operated at Aldergrove for the past three decades with 14 flights each week to Turkey, Spain and Cyprus.

But within hours of the announcement yesterday, the Thomas Cook branding had already been removed from check-in desks at Belfast International.

Information signs were placed in the hall from the Civil Aviation Authority.

"All Thomas Cook flights are cancelled as the airline has ceased trading," it stated.

"The CAA and UK government are organising the flights back to the UK for Thomas Cook's passengers originating from the UK currently abroad and due to return to the UK on or before 6/10/2019."

Two flights due to depart from Belfast to Turkey yesterday were among the first to be cancelled.

It is estimated that around 6,000 people would have been due to fly with the airline from Belfast over the next two weeks.

Thomas Cook is understood to have employed more than 100 people in Northern Ireland, across 23 stores as well as at Belfast International.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) yesterday launched Britain's largest peacetime repatriation to bring home stranded Thomas Cook passengers.

There are 600,000 Thomas Cook travellers who have been left stuck at 53 destinations in 18 countries, with more than 150,000 due to fly back to the UK.

Around 40 aircraft from as far away as Malaysia have been chartered to operate approximately 1,000 flights.

Most of the flights will be from European airports, but customers will also be brought home from Thomas Cook's long-haul destinations such as those in the US, the Caribbean and Cuba.

The majority of the £100 million cost of the programme will be met from funds held by the Atol scheme, with the UK government also making a contribution.

Atol provides protection to customers on package holidays when travel firms collapse, although passengers who made flight-only bookings with Thomas Cook are also being brought home at no extra charge.

Thomas Cook package holiday customers will also see the cost of their accommodation covered by Atol.

Those who have not yet started their package holiday will be given a refund, while those on flight-only bookings are advised to seek reimbursement from their credit or debit card provider, or make a claim through their travel insurer.

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