Thomas Cook's last flight: 'The staff were crying and it was very sombre'

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Media captionThomas Cook customers react to holiday firm collapse

Thomas Cook's flight from Orlando to Manchester landed at 08:52 BST - according to Flight Radar, it was the stricken operator's final flight. The BBC has spoken to some of the passengers who were on board, as well as people in Leicester from where the holiday firm's first excursion left in 1841.

Anthony Speak, 64, and Wendy Willis, 57, said the atmosphere on the flight was very different from their outward journey on 8 September.

"The staff were crying and it was very sombre," said Ms Willis.

"But the staff were brilliant and very professional, despite not having a job when they landed."

Image caption Anthony Speak and Wendy Willis were on the last flight

"We saw one of the girls in floods of tears," added Mr Speak, from Dudley, West Midlands.

Stephen and Tracy Curran, from Cumbria, who also flew to America on 8 September, said they had constantly been checking for updates on their holiday-provider's fate.

"We thought it would be a close call," said Mrs Curran.

"We didn't know what had happened until we landed - the staff didn't know either.

"There was a plane that was due to take off an hour after us - but it's still there."

Image caption Tracy and Stephen Curran spent two weeks in Orlando

Susan Macintosh, 55, said she felt "very fortunate" to have made her flight back to the UK.

Ms Macintosh, along with her family, praised Thomas Cook staff for their professionalism, adding it was an emotional moment when the pilot made an announcement marking the end of an era.

The family had been waiting for the latest news as speculation heightened about the future of Thomas Cook.

Her son-in-law Kenneth McGuinan, 31, said: "For the past couple of days I have been constantly checking [to see what is happening]."

Image caption Susan Macintosh and her family said it had been an emotional journey

What to do if you are affected

If you are abroad, the UK government has pledged to get everyone home.

Customers can visit the Civil Aviation Authority's special Thomas Cook website. Those scheduled to return to the UK within the next 48 hours or who are having problems with their accommodation or need special assistance can ring 0300 303 2800 in the UK or +44 1753 330 330 from abroad.

Customers have been urged not to cut short their holiday or go to the airport without checking the website for more information about their return journey.

Those whose future holidays have been cancelled will be informed of how they can claim a refund on the website.

There was also sadness in Leicester, from where Victorian entrepreneur Thomas Cook organised his first holiday.

The 12-mile (19km) rail excursion to Loughborough in 1841 was an attempt by the cabinet-maker and Baptist preacher to offer working-class people a diversion from drinking, which he saw as the root cause of society's ills.

"Thomas Cook is part of Leicester life, part of its history," Sally Pick said.

"We've lost something famous about Leicester.

"I feel bad for the staff who may lose their jobs, and the holidaymakers abroad."

Image caption Ivor James said Thomas Cook, of whom there is a statue in Leicester, was a part of the city's history

Ivor James, 70, said the company's collapse was "sad" and a "great shame".

He said he used to book holidays with the firm in the 1990s but now goes online.

"People may have fallen out of love with the package holiday because of holidays on the internet," Mr James said,

"I think the mobility of people getting to Europe and cheap flights hasn't helped them."

Yvonne Russell said she had seen the internet have a similar effect on the retail industry in which she works.

"Online means no-one comes to the High Street," she said.

Image caption Yvonne Russell said the internet has had an impact on traditional firms like Thomas Cook

A caller to BBC Radio Manchester said emotions were also running high on the last Thomas Cook flight from Cancun.

The woman, who gave her name as Trish, said the captain asked the passengers to "please bear in mind the staff here are working under tremendous pressure" and they didn't know whether they would have jobs or not.

"We would like you to remember that we also have families and children and bills to pay," the pilot apparently told passengers.

"The staff were all excellent but were all crying," Trish said.

"It was horrendous to see."


She said the captain told passengers he had more than 25 years of service with Thomas Cook and signed off saying: "This is a sad day."

Prospective passengers have been speaking of their heartbreak after their holidays were cancelled.

Chloe Hardy, 26, from Burbage, Leicestershire, was due to fly to Zante in Greece on Thursday with 33 friends and family for her wedding at a Thomas Cook hotel.

"I tried to hold on to the tiny bit of hope Thomas Cook was going to be OK," Ms Hardy said.

"It's a nightmare. You never think it's going to happen to you.

"It's devastating, it feels like bereavement."

She said the wedding had been 15 months in the planning but "it's been for nothing".

At the head office in Peterborough

By John Devine, BBC reporter

Thomas Cook employs 9,000 people in the UK and about 1,000 work here. Cars have been streaming in since about 7am and if you didn't know otherwise, you'd think it was business as usual.

There are several members of the media here but people have not been willing to talk, understandably. There has been a lot of "no comment" and one man just said: "I've lost my job."

Image copyright Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Image caption About 1,000 people worked at the headquarters in Peteborough

One woman was coming out of the car park in tears with two children in the back of the car. She said her partner worked there.

There have been people huddled together in groups outside the offices, obviously discussing what has happened.

Image caption Travel agent Andy Dean said his sympathies were with all those affected

Stoke-on-Trent travel agent Andy Dean described the collapse as "massive", and said he had been inundated with people trying to make other arrangements.

"My first thought was for the people whose jobs and livelihoods will be affected and for those people whose holidays have been affected," he said.

"It isn't just flights, it is accommodation as well."

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