Thomas Cook CEO silent on £200m bailout as holidaymakers remain stranded

22 September 2019, 20:15

CEO of Thomas Cook, Peter Fankhauser, was silent following the crisis meeting
CEO of Thomas Cook, Peter Fankhauser, was silent following the crisis meeting. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Thomas Cook bosses met with creditors today to negotiate a final bid to keep the travel and holiday company afloat.

The CEO of the firm, Dr Peter Fankhauser, refused to answer questions following a day-long crisis meeting in which they pleaded for a £200m bailout.

Dr Fankhauser, 58, exited the law firm Latham & Watkins in Bishopsgate, Central London, surrounded by colleagues after the meeting ran from 9am until nearly 5.30pm.

Reporters asked if a deal had been struck and whether the company was considering approaching the government for a taxpayer-funded bailout, to which he did not reply.

He was also asked if he had anything to say to Thomas Cook's customers but he remained tight-lipped.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today reassured customers that they would not be left stranded around the world if the tour operator collapses.

Dominic Raab reassured UK citizens they would not be left stranded
Dominic Raab reassured UK citizens they would not be left stranded. Picture: PA

Contingency plans will be put in place ensuring UK citizens are helped home, according to Mr Raab.

He said: "I don't want to give all the details of it [the plans] because it depends on the nature of how many people are out there, whether they have got a package holiday or whether they just paid for the flights and sorted out something separately.

"But I can reassure people that in the worst case scenario, the contingency planning is there to avoid people being stranded."

The foreign secretary did not confirm any plan to step in and bail out Thomas Cook.

"We don't systematically step in with the taxpayers' money when businesses are going under unless there's a good strategic national interest," he said.

Thomas Cook has been a cornerstone of British high streets
Thomas Cook has been a cornerstone of British high streets. Picture: PA

Thomas Cook also severed its ties with the hotel in Tunisia which was described as holding people "hostage'.

Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in Hammamet, near Tunis, said security guards kept gates shut while staff demanded visitors pay extra money, out of fear the tour operator would not honour its bookings.

Responding to customers' complaints on Twitter on Sunday, Thomas Cook said: "A small number of customers were asked to pay for their hotel room before leaving Les Orangers in Tunisia yesterday, we have refunded those customers who paid on their credit cards.

"Anyone due to stay at this hotel will be offered an alternative hotel in Hammamet."

The firm told another customer: "Thomas Cook will not be sending any new arrivals to Les Orangers and anyone due to stay at this hotel will be offered an alternative hotel in Hammamet on arrival. We continue to support customers in all our resorts."

Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, said the hotel had on Saturday afternoon summoned all guests who were due to leave to go to reception, "to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook".

Many tourists defied the demand, since they had already paid the embattled travel company, but security guards kept the hotel's gates shut, refusing to allow guests out, or let new visitors enter.

"We can't leave the hotel. I'd describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage," he said.

"We've been up to the gates. They had four security guards on the gates, holding the gates closed, and were not allowing anybody to leave."

Package holidays booked with Thomas Cook fall under the ATOL protection scheme, which is run by the Civil Aviation Authority.

This covers overseas air holidays booked with a UK travel company, and protects customers from either losing their money or becoming stranded abroad if the travel firm collapses.

If Thomas Cook did go bust before customers set off for their trip, then they should be provided with a full refund for the holiday.

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