Britons on holiday in Tunisia claimed they were being ‘held hostage’ in hotels by armed guards last night amid fears Thomas Cook would go bust.
Despite having already paid the travel company, gates were locked and holidaymakers were told to settle up – and coaches that arrived to take the travellers to the airport were turned away at Les Orangers, Hammamet, holidaymakers have said.
One customer, Dean Williams, told MailOnline the hotel has ‘taken it upon themselves to charge the customers as they haven’t been paid by Thomas Cook’.
Mr Williams said the hotel had switched the wi-fi off, and a coach had arrived at 8.20pm to take guests to the airport but the hotel would not permit them to collect passengers.
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
One user posted a video purporting to show guests by the hotel gates, saying: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting that @ThomasCookCares customers being locked in hotels in #Tunisia #lesorangers until they pay the bill that the hotel claim Thomas Cook owes them.’
Thomas Cook could collapse tonight amid fears that British tourists face being turfed out of their hotel beds, effectively turning European holiday resorts into ‘refugee camps’.
The apocalyptic warnings will worry 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.
Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini next September
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 £600 million – would have access to enough planes to fly Britons home without major delays.
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
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.
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.
‘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: ‘4am…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 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)
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 reorganise 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 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 £1.7 billion.
After launching a search for extra funds, in August the firm announced a £900 million refinancing deal with banks and Fosun Tourism, a Chinese travel giant. But the deal was thrown into disarray when Thomas Cook revealed it would need to secure an extra £200 million.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘We do not speculate on the financial situation of individual businesses.’