Over 2,700 Thomas Cook passengers are returned to Northern Ireland
More than 2,700 Thomas Cook passengers were returned home to Northern Ireland on 18 flights as part of the UK's biggest-ever peacetime repatriation, it can be revealed.
After the package tour company collapsed, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had to step in to bring 150,000 passengers back to the UK over two weeks using 700 flights in what was known as Operation Matterhorn.
Around 9,000 Thomas Cook staff were also made redundant when the company ceased trading.
Belfast International Airport said it had played its part to return stranded holidaymakers.
"The Civil Aviation Authority co-ordinated the largest ever peacetime repatriation and we are pleased that those passengers are now safely home," it said.
"We would remind any passengers who have booked a holiday with Thomas Cook to contact the CAA for refund information.
"Our thoughts remain with all of those people who have been affected by this situation, especially the staff and customers of Thomas Cook."
Yesterday, the CAA also said "unprecedented demand" caused a website set up to deal with compensation claims to crash moments after it went live.
This relates to over 360,000 bookings for trips due to be taken by 800,000 people.
Atol-protected customers who were already abroad when Thomas Cook collapsed can claim for the parts of their holiday which were financially protected, or for out-of-pocket expenses.
Following the early disruption, CAA said over 40,000 claims were successfully submitted by 3pm yesterday, with the aim of paying refunds within 60 days of receiving a valid form.
It also warned about a fake refund website - thomascookrefunds.com - that had been set up to scam Thomas Cook customers out of their personal details.
Adrienne Sands (34), from Newtownabbey, was on holiday in Lanzarote with her parents and young daughter when Thomas Cook ceased trading.
She previously told the Belfast Telegraph of her "holiday from hell" as they were abruptly told to leave the hotel along with other guests unless they paid an extra £1,600.
The family were forced to move to another hotel for two nights, forking out an extra £750 for travel and accommodation until a new flight home was arranged.
"Thankfully, we got home safely and had no issue with the compensation website today," she said.
"We will have to wait and see if we're successful.
"However, we don't see why that hotel should get paid for the extra two nights after they evicted us.
"So we won't get our full trip refunded, but we should definitely be refunded for the two extra nights we had to pay for.
"I'm sure a lot of people are still very angry about this but to be honest I'm just happy that we got home."
CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said: "The largest peacetime repatriation ever required an extraordinary effort from all involved.
"I want to thank everyone who has played their part in delivering this enormous undertaking, including the passengers we flew home for bearing with us as we undertook this complex operation.
"I also want to pay tribute to the many amazing former Thomas Cook employees who worked with us to make this operation a success.
"It needed an unprecedented team effort from our commercial partners, our friends across government and my colleagues at the CAA."
Affected customers will be able to find out more information by visiting https://thomascook.caa.co.uk