British holidaymakers in Tunisia ‘held hostage’ in their hotels

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British holidaymakers in Tunisia 'held hostage' in their hotels 1

British holidaymakers say they are being ‘held hostage’ in a Tunisian hotel which is refusing to let them out over fears Thomas Cook will go bust.

Security guards at the Les Orangers beach resort near Tunis were keeping the gates shut last night while hotel staff demanded money over fears they would not be paid, guests said.

Many tourists are refusing to cough up as they have already paid Thomas Cook for the holiday, leading to a stand-off.

‘We can’t leave the hotel. I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage,’ said Ryan Farmer from Leicestershire.

Mr Williams said the hotel had switched the WiFi off and a coach had arrived at 8.20 pm to take guests to the airport but the hotel would not permit them to collect passengers.

These morning company bosses will hold urgent talks with shareholders and creditors in a bid to stop Britain’s oldest travel firm going bust.

Thomas Cook needs £200million on top of the £900million rescue deal agreed last month and is now hoping for an unlikely government bailout.

Hotel guests allegedly held in a hotel over unpaid Thomas Cook bill
James and Rebecca Hyam, from Lichfield, are concerned about returning home from their honeymoon in Cancun. The newlyweds were are supposed to be flying back to Manchester on Monday night

James and Rebecca Hyam, from Lichfield, are concerned about returning home from their honeymoon in Cancun. The newlyweds were are supposed to be flying back to Manchester on Monday night

Thomas Cook continued to reassure worried customers on Saturday night that their flights continue to operate as normal and all their package holidays are ATOL-protected.

But there are fears that British tourists could be turfed out of their hotel beds if Thomas Cook collapses, effectively turning European holiday resorts into ‘refugee camps’.

‘We will know by tomorrow if an agreement is reached,’ a source said yesterday.

A collapse would leave up to 150,000 UK holidaymakers stranded and the Government is being urged to step in to help save the business.

Thousands of workers could also lose their jobs, with the 178-year-old company employing about 22,000 staff worldwide, including 9,000 in Britain.

‘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,’ he said.

‘They don’t say anything, they just stand there holding the gates.’

A woman in her 80s had been forced to pay ‘more than £2,000’ to the hotel even though she had already paid Thomas Cook for the holiday, he said.

Guests at Les Oranges hotel in Tunisia ‘held hostage’

Anxious holidaymakers are bombarding Thomas Cook with messages revealing their worries about returning home.

But not all of them found the beleaguered company’s responses helpful.

One Twitter user with the name Joan Liceaga said: ‘I have close family due to fly back from Cyprus on Wed and I’m worried about them getting home. Will they be OK?’

Thomas Cook responded: ‘Hello Joan. We understand you are unsettled by all the media speculation surrounding Thomas Cook.’

Another Twitter user replied: ‘Helpful!’

Another two women revealed they were getting married next week and planning to fly out on honeymoon two days later.

Thomas Cook said that all their package holidays continue to remain fully ATOL protected.

‘There was a gentleman from Ireland trying to talk to the security guards and say, look, we want to go home, we want to go home. Can you let us out? They just look at him and laugh and continue to hold the gate shut,’ Mr Farmer said.

‘A Thomas Cook representative is trying to sort things out with the hotel, but they’re just not interested.’

The British Consulate in Tunisia has reportedly been made aware of the situation at the hotel.

Claire Simpson, who was supposed to return to Manchester last night, told The Sun: ‘Les Orangers have locked the gates to the hotel and are keeping people hostage.

‘Three buses came to take people to the airport and they’ve been turned away.

‘They are claiming Thomas Cook hasn’t paid them, so are demanding that we pay them.’

She claimed the hotel put security guards along the beach to prevent an ‘escape’.

One tourist claimed a pensioner was charged £2,500 and another customer was forced to pay £1,800 to gain access to their room.

Social media video showed tourists gathered by the gates saying they had not been informed of what was going on.

In a last ditch bid to win support, the company is understood to be warning regulators about the practicalities of the Government’s repatriation plans

In a last-ditch bid to win support, the company is understood to be warning regulators about the practicalities of the Government’s repatriation plans

British woman stranded in Turkey ‘forced to sleep outside with her suitcase as a pillow’

A British woman says she was left stranded in Turkey after her Thomas Cook flight was canceled and had to sleep on the ground outside the airport using her suitcase as a pillow.

Beka Whitelaw was among 300 passengers who were meant to return from Antalya, Turkey to Glasgow on September 20 but was left stranded after Thomas Cook said an ‘engine fault’ would stop the aircraft from flying, Glasgow Live reported.

Beka Whitelaw was among 300 passengers who were meant to return from Antalya

Beka Whitelaw was among 300 passengers who were meant to return from Antalya

Ms. Whitelaw said children, pensioners, and disabled passengers had been ‘dumped’ from the plane and ‘kicked out’ of the airport following the fault.

‘Sleeping on the street outside Antalya Airport with no confirmation of when our flight home is,’ she said. ‘Using a suitcase for a pillow isn’t fun.

‘The lack of communication by Thomas Cook is unbelievable. The airport staff here are even worse.

‘Children, elderly and disabled all stranded. No hotels.’

Ms Whitelaw, of Glasgow, said she was eventually given accommodation after waiting 12 hours.

One user posted a video purporting to show guests by the hotel gates, saying: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting that Thomas Cook customers being locked in hotels in Tunisia until they pay the bill that the hotel claim Thomas Cook owes them.’

James and Rebecca Hyam, from Lichfield, are concerned about returning home from their honeymoon in Cancun. The newlyweds were are supposed to be flying back to Manchester on Monday night.

Mr Hyam told CNN: ‘There are quite a few of us here with Thomas Cook at the hotel where we are staying. Everyone is quite concerned.’

The issues facing the travel company had ‘transformed a nice, relaxing honeymoon holiday to a Twitter frenzy trying to find out what happens next,’ he told the broadcaster.

The scenes in Tunisia hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers who face being stranded abroad, unable to attend key events such as weddings or return to work, if the company cannot be rescued this weekend.

Ministers and the Civil Aviation Authority are preparing to enact Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation, codenamed Operation Matterhorn, if Thomas Cook goes to the wall, which sources last night said was looking increasingly likely.

The 178-year-old British travel firm will be put into administration at midnight unless a rescue package is agreed later today, sources have told The Mail on Sunday.

An urgent meeting with creditors and shareholders is taking place this morning at a City law firm.

Today there were reports that security staff had been hired to ‘lock down’ Thomas Cook’s premises in Peterborough and at airports.

In a last ditch bid to win support, the company is understood to be warning regulators about the practicalities of the Government’s repatriation plans.

One industry source said the firm was questioning whether the scheme – the cost of which has been estimated to be £600million – would have access to enough planes to fly Britons home without major delays.

Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini next September

Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini next September

The source said spare aircraft are in short supply across Europe and the CAA could struggle to put on flights for up to 180,000 who may be affected.

The source also warned that tourists staying in hotels through Thomas Cook packages could be ‘turfed out’ of their rooms by managers concerned that they may not get paid – particularly if they have to extend their trips due to delays.

‘This is a doomsday scenario, but you could see tourist hotspots effectively turned into refugee camps,’ the MoS was told.

Two years ago, the Government co-ordinated a similar repatriation scheme when Monarch Airlines collapsed.

But sources said Thomas Cook presents an ‘unprecedented’ challenge because it is a larger operator and runs package holidays.

Ministers are coming under increasing pressure to bail out Thomas Cook with a financial lifeline today.

Stranded: Thomas Cook passengers at Antalya Airport in Turkey. Ministers and the Civil Aviation Authority are preparing to enact Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation, codenamed Operation Matterhorn, if Thomas Cook goes to the wall

Stranded: Thomas Cook passengers at Antalya Airport in Turkey. Ministers and the Civil Aviation Authority are preparing to enact Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation, codenamed Operation Matterhorn if Thomas Cook goes to the wall

The company needs to secure £200 million in emergency funds to complete a rescue deal with its lenders and a Chinese tourism firm (pictured: Antalya Airport)

The company needs to secure £200 million in emergency funds to complete a rescue deal with its lenders and a Chinese tourism firm (pictured: Antalya Airport)

The company needs to secure £200million in emergency funds to complete a rescue deal with its lenders and a Chinese tourism firm.

Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of travel workers union TSSA, wrote to Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom yesterday urging the Government to provide Thomas Cook with support amid fears for the future of its 21,000-strong staff.

”It is incumbent upon the government to act if required and save this iconic cornerstone of the British high street and the thousands of jobs that go with it,’ he said.

‘The company must be rescued no matter what,’ he said in the letter.

‘No British Government in its right mind would countenance the loss of so many jobs and the prospect of just one major travel operator – TUI – controlling the mass market.’

On Friday night, passengers flying from Antalya, Turkey, to Glasgow faced further misery when a fault with their Thomas Cook plane stopped it from taking off.

Hundreds who are now left stranded without a hotel to go to fear they will not get home before the travel company collapses.

One passenger, Beka Whitelaw, posted on Twitter: ‘4 am… 300 of us now kicked out of Antalya airport. no hotels – children, elderly and disabled stranded…are we to sleep in the street? Not good enough! Only info given is that we’ll receive a further update at 2200 tonight!’

Hundreds who are now left stranded without a hotel to go to fear they will not get home before the travel company collapses (pictured: Antalya Airport)

Hundreds who are now left stranded without a hotel to go to fear they will not get home before the travel company collapses (pictured: Antalya Airport)

Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini next September.

She said: ‘The wedding package includes wedding venue, celebrant to marry us, bouquets etc and we have around 30-35 guests flying out with us.’ She said she now fears she and Dean, 27, who live in the Midlands, could be left having to reorganize wedding plans.

Another bride-to-be, Natasha Cairns, has until October 16 to rearrange wedding plans if Thomas Cook goes bust.

She and her fiance are booked to go to Cyprus for their ceremony, reception, and honeymoon. They are due to spend two weeks away and 47 guests are planning to travel out for the first week. She said: ‘Nobody can give us a straight answer.’

Thomas Cook, founded in 1841, has experienced major financial problems in recent years and has built up debts of £1.7billion.

After launching a search for extra funds, in August the firm announced a £900million refinancing deal with banks and Fosun Tourism, a Chinese travel giant.

In return, the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate acquired a 75 percent stake in Thomas Cook’s tour operating division and 25 percent of its airline unit.

But the deal was thrown into disarray when Thomas Cook revealed it would need to secure an extra £200million.

The company has blamed a mixture of Brexit uncertainty, environmental concerns and last year’s heatwave for its poor financial state.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘We do not speculate on the financial situation of individual businesses.’

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