(SKY NEWS) — British holidaymakers were thrown out of their hotels abroad as others scrambled for information on how to get home after the collapse of travel giant Thomas Cook.
From job losses to cancelled honeymoons, the demise of the British company left an estimated 600,000 people stranded worldwide.
Some travellers reported being kicked out of their hotels amid the chaos as Thomas Cook ceased trading in the early hours of Monday after failing to secure a last-ditch rescue deal.
Kayleigh Robinson told Sky News that her sister, mother-in-law, nieces and nephews were kicked out of their hotel in Turkey because the manager had not been paid for the remainder of their stay.
She said security turned up at the hotel.
Turkey’s culture and tourism ministry earlier warned hotels that if they demand payments from tourists or evict them from their hotel rooms due to the Thomas Cook collapse they will be prosecuted.
Another holidaymaker, Stacey Leigh Robinson, asked her friends for help in a Facebook post after Hotel Troye in Tenerife threatened to make her leave.
She wrote: “Can anyone please help. Our hotel are demanding £1,200 by midday or we have to leave the hotel. What the hell are we suppose to do? We paid our holiday off full??????”
Around 150,000 tourists are being brought home over the next two weeks in a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) flight programme costing £100m.
The first rescue flight arrived at Gatwick from Split, Croatia, shortly before midday.
Around 15,000 passengers were expected to travel on 61 flights on Monday.
Travellers checked their mobile phones and quizzed officials for travel updates as they waited in long queues beneath flight boards showing delayed or cancelled flights.
One traveller, Ricky Houston, said his flight to Newcastle from Corfu in Greece had been delayed by nine hours.
He added: “From Thomas Cook we didn’t get anything.
“I feel sorry for the reps because I don’t think they knew anything either. It was the hotel which kept us up to date”.
David Midson, from Kent, tried and failed to find information at the front desk of his hotel in Roda, Corfu.
He said: “There’s a sign saying that Thomas Cook customers should get in touch with their agency, but you don’t get through to anybody because it doesn’t exist”.
Forty-five aircraft have been chartered to operate around 1,000 flights from 53 airports in 18 countries over the next fortnight.
Holidaymakers are already being flown home at no extra cost as close as possible to their original return time and date.
But around one million people have been affected after all Thomas Cook bookings were cancelled.
Newlyweds Lewis and Amy Bromiley, from Manchester, were among those suffering disruption.
The couple paid £7,000 for a January honeymoon in the Maldives.
“Me and my wife are devastated,” Mr Bromiley, 25, said.
“We’ll have to wait for the refund which could take months.”
Thomas Cook was unable to secure the extra £200m required to keep the business afloat following crucial talks with its major shareholder and creditors on Sunday.
The company’s chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said Thomas Cook had worked “exhaustively” to salvage a rescue package and apologised to its customers and employees.
He said: “I know that this outcome will be devastating to many people and will cause a lot of anxiety, stress and disruption.
“I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years.”
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson questioned whether directors should pay themselves “large sums of money” in the aftermath of Thomas Cook’s collapse.
In an interview at the residence of the British consulate general in New York, the prime minister hinted at forcing companies to be properly insured against collapse.
He said: “I think the first thing, obviously, is that our thoughts are very much with the travellers of Thomas Cook, the customers, holidaymakers, who have been stranded by this collapse.
“I have questions for one about whether it’s right that the directors, or whoever, the board, should pay themselves large sums when businesses can go down the tubes like that.”