Thomas Cook repatriation flights begin to bring Northern Ireland tourists home
Three repatriation flights are expected to arrive in to Belfast International Airport over the next 24 hours following the collapse of holiday company Thomas Cook.
The collapse has put more than 20,000 jobs at risk worldwide, some of whom are based in 20 shops across Northern Ireland.
The 178-year-old tour operator ceased trading at 2am on Monday morning.
An estimated 150,000 tourists are being brought back to the UK by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in a flight programme costing £100 million.
A repatriation flight from Antalya, Turkey is scheduled to arrive at Belfast International Airport at 8.30pm on Monday.
Another flight is expected arrive at the airport from Turkey at 4.40am on Tuesday and a flight from Spain is scheduled for 12.30pm.
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Paul Dunn from Co Antrim is on holiday in Tunisia with his wife Gael.
He's staying in the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet and told the BBC he feared they might not get home as planned.
He said the atmosphere at the resort was "tense" on Saturday night.
"We were just coming out of dinner and noticed a wee bit of commotion going around reception - and then found out that some folks from Manchester who were flying home had not been allowed to leave," Mr Dunn said.
"They locked the gates. Then, a short time after that, stopped our wi-fi. Then about 200 people started to gather.
"Two poor reps from Thomas Cook came in to try and sort it.
"The place was very tense."
"Basically Thomas Cook hadn't paid the hotel, so they were holding the people in because they wanted paid and so they were billing the customers," he added.
"A guy from [Thomas Cook] management did come down and paid them so the Manchester folk were allowed to leave.
"I just want to get home."
— Thomas Cook (@ThomasCookUK) September 23, 2019
We are sorry to announce that Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate effect.
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On Sunday, the Foreign Secretary said holidaymakers will not be left stranded abroad if Thomas Cook collapses.
Dominic Raab assured the firm's worried customers that contingency planning is in place in the event the business cannot be saved.
But Mr Raab told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We have got all the contingency planning to make sure no one will be stranded.
"I don't want to give all the details of it because it depends on the nature of how people are out there, whether they have got a package holiday or whether they just paid for the flights and sorted out something separately."
He added: "But I can reassure people that in the worst case scenario, the contingency planning is there to avoid people being stranded."
Chief executive of Thomas Cook Peter Fankhauser said the firm's collapse was a "matter of profound regret".
As the company entered compulsory liquidation, Mr Fankhauser apologised to the firm's "millions of customers, and thousands of employees".
Belfast Telegraph Digital