Belfast Telegraph

Watch: First Thomas Cook travellers return to Northern Ireland

The first Thomas Cook passengers returned to Northern Ireland on Monday night after the collapse of the company.

The demise of the holiday firm has resulted in over 100 staff members losing their jobs in 23 outlets across Northern Ireland.

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 number of flights returned to Belfast International Airport on Monday from destinations including Turkey and Spain.

John Devlin (56) from Belfast had been on a family holiday with a group of 25 and said the "pandemonium" caused by the Thomas Cook closure meant only nine of his group have been able to get home.

"It's absolutely brilliant to get home, I didn't even think I'd get on the flight in the first place," he said.

"It was an absolute nightmare over there with kids being put off flights, father's being taken away from their families, families split up.

"It's ridiculous, we still have family trying to get back through London.

"Another family member is travelling via Germany and others won't get home till Friday. it's ridiculous."

Eileen Roden, aged in her 60s, made the flight home but said her son has now lost his job with Thomas Cook.

John Devlin (56) from Belfast.
John Devlin (56) from Belfast.

"My journey hasn't been as bad as I don't have children with me but it has been very hard for the families flying tonight," she said.

"My son booked the holiday for me and he's the manager for Thomas Cook, so he's lost his job now and that's what is much more upsetting for me."

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Sylvia Boyd (61) from Coleraine said she was shocked at the sudden collapse of the travel agent

"We were absolutely able enjoy our holiday and made it home safely. Two or three days ago we had an idea but didn't know for sure till we looked it up this morning. We're home safe," she said.

John Lafferty (54) from Coleraine said his flight was hit by a long delay.

Eileen Roden from Dunmurry.
Eileen Roden from Dunmurry.

"We were aware from this morning and got through to the Civil Aviation Authority to see our flight was rescheduled although it was three-and-a half hours late," he said.

"Apart from that we were a bit apprehensive to see of the coach would actually arrive for our transfer to the airport.

"It is quite an incredible situation but worldwide firms are collapsing.

"It might make me think twice about booking a package holiday."

The 178-year-old tour operator ceased trading at 2am on Monday morning.

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".

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