More than 130 car keys have been stolen following a major break-in at a single meet-and-greet airport parking firm - and four vehicles snatched from another site.
Bungling bosses at Car Park Manchester - just one mile from Manchester Airport - admitted that up to 50 holidaying families still hadn't been told about the key thefts.
The firm said it had boosted security at its site but didn't want to tell some victims for fear of 'ruining their trips'.
Director Sultan Khan said keys were stolen from the firm’s depot in Altrincham, Greater Manchester.
Mr Khan said he believed other companies had also been targeted by a criminal gang, who then returned to steal cars.
Greater Manchester Police confirmed that four Mercedes - including a £45,000 AMG - had gone missing from a car park, understood to be used by another firm, in Styal, Cheshire.
Mr Khan said: “Seven weeks ago an organised crime gang came into this area and started nicking car keys.
“On August 17 they used a special tool and got through three doors to steal more than 100 keys.
“Thieves have been on site every night since trying to steal cars.”
Mr Khan said staff withheld the crime from customers until they landed in Manchester so as ‘not to ruin their holidays’.
He said the first two vehicles were stolen when gang members were ‘testing out’ the site prior to the major break-in.
Bosses have now put extra security staff in place and say they have secured the remaining cars affected.
Mr Khan said: “We are extremely sorry for the distress caused to our customers by this criminal gang’s activities.
“However, we have not spared any expense to get our customers safely home and have paid for any costs they have incurred,
“We are fully insured and we are probably the most secure independent car park at Manchester Airport.
“But we are not geared up for organised criminal gangs, who have been planning this for months.”
Mr Khan said he was considering contacting customers yet to be informed of their missing car keys.
Car Park Manchester, also known as Manchester Car Park, is not affiliated with Manchester Airport and currently advertises a meet and greet service and a week of parking for £59.50.
Greater Manchester Police confirmed officers were investigating the thefts of ‘more than 130 keys’ and four cars from the Davenport Green Hall site in Altrincham.
A 21-year-old man arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft and drink-driving has been bailed pending further enquiries.
On the separate Mercedes thefts in Styal, a Cheshire Police spokeswoman said: “Sometime between 7pm on August 15 and 6pm on August 16, four Mercedes were stolen from a car park on Altrincham Road.
“Police are investigating.”
A week of secure parking at Manchester Airport is currently advertised for between £102 and £199, depending on the terminal a passenger is travelling from.
A Manchester Airport spokesman said: “We would like to remind passengers that the airport offers a wide range of secure, official car parking facilities, and is also well connected via public transport.
“Anyone with any doubts about their car parking can verify it with our customer services team.”
Georgina Firth, 41, returned from holiday in Menorca on Monday, August 14 to be told her car was missing.
It transpired the £15,000 Audi A4 had been stolen and house keys left in the vehicle had been used to enter her home.
After a two hour wait, Georgina and her husband Anthony say a taxi was sent by the firm to collect them and take them home to Penrhyn Bay in Wales.
Three days earlier, Georgina’s 17-year-old son Nathan called to tell her two men had gone into their home. He managed to chase them off.
Georgina said: “We were already stressed out when we arrived in Manchester, as our son had told us a few days before about people going into our home.
“The penny dropped when we were told our car had gone as our house keys were in it.
“My insurance documents were in the car, which had our address on.
“It all made sense as the police in North Wales couldn’t understand how the men had got in as there was no forced entry.
“We have had to use our own insurance to pursue this.”
Cheryl Wilden, 50, and pal Samantha Mercer are among scores of passengers to have had their keys stolen.
They returned from a long weekend in Barcelona - where they were minutes away from the terror attack - to be told the keys were lost.
Samantha had entrusted her new Hyundai Ioniqu to the firm after Cheryl found a £50 deal on Groupon.
Cheryl said: “At first they told me my car may have been stolen and they weren’t sure.
“Then they said the key was missing. They wanted to drive me home to Wakefield to get the spare key and come back, but we’ve asked someone to bring it to us.
“What I don’t understand is that our key went missing four days ago, why weren’t we told?”
Kate Gerrard, 35, has lost her nearly-new £21,000 Golf R sport car after leaving it with Car Park Manchester for £65 for a week.
She landed from a family holiday in Turkey on August 20 to be told by the firm they were bringing her car.
Kate said that at first, staff said the key was missing.
But when she returned with a spare, she was told the car was not there.
Kate said: “I had to go back and walk around their car lot in the woods clicking my key, but my car didn’t turn up.
“After over an hour they said it must have been stolen. How do you lose a car and not know?”
Leanne Wadsworth has had her £14,500 Renault Clio stolen.
She said firm bosses initially said it was ‘lost’ - but said it had been stolen a day later.
The emergency medicine technician returned to Manchester on July 28 from an 11-night break in Greece with partner Ashley Baud and their two children Oliver, 11, and Mason, nine.
When they went to collect their car, they were told it was missing.
Leanne, from Huddersfield, said: “Straight away the staff member said ‘do you drive a white Clio?’ and said they’d call me back.
“After 30 minutes a lady called and said they’d lost my car.”
Leanne said the firm paid for the family to take a taxi home and promised to deliver the car the next day when they found it.
They had to break into their home because their house keys were locked in the glove box.
“At 3pm the next day they said they’d deliver the car later, but nobody came,” Leanne said.
“Then they called to say it had been stolen.
“They told me it had been moved to an area of no CCTV so it wasn’t covered.
“I’m really annoyed, especially after an amazing holiday.”