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  1. ITV Report

Thousands of Thomas Cook customers flown home amid anger over directors’ pay

  • Video report by ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills

Thousands of stranded Thomas Cook passengers will be repatriated on Tuesday as the rescue operation continues into its second day.

Holidaymakers were being brought home amid questions over the multi-million pound sums received by the bosses of the firm prior to its collapse.

The conduct of the directors will come under the microscope as the Insolvency Services fast-tracks an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the company going into Liquidation.

Questions have been asked over funds paid to Thomas Cook’s directors prior to the company folding. Credit: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

After that happened in the early hours of Monday, there was anger at other travel firms and airlines hiking their prices.

Around 15,000 holidaymakers were flown home on an estimated 61 flights on Monday, after the travel company collapsed.

Some 150,000 tourists will be brought home over the next two weeks in a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) flight programme costing £100 million.

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the CAA, said the Government had asked his organisation to launch “the UK’s largest ever peacetime repatriation”.

Forty-five aircraft from as far away as Malaysia have been chartered to operate approximately 1,000 flights from 53 airports in 18 countries over the next fortnight.

On Monday evening, the Prime Minister visited staff at the British consulate in New York City, who are working to bring stranded travellers home.

He tweeted: “It’s a tough time for those who have had holidays disrupted but team hard at work to support them.

“Thanks to all the staff who represent our country so well.”

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Earlier in the day, Mr Johnson questioned whether directors should pay themselves “large sums of money” as their businesses go “down the tubes”.

Speaking to reporters in New York, he said: “How can we make sure that tour operators take proper precautions with their business models where you don’t end up with a situation where the taxpayer, the state, is having to step in and bring people home?

“I have questions for one about whether it’s right that the directors, or whoever, the board, should pay themselves large sums when businesses can go down the tubes like that.”

Liquidators will now see if any money can be found within more than 25 Thomas Cook companies to hand back to staff and creditors.

Thomas Cook planes on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport in Sussex as 178-year-old tour operator Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate effect after failing in a final bid to secure a rescue package from creditors Credit: Steve Parsons/PA

Mr Johnson himself is now facing questions over his handling of the collapse, as it's also been revealed Thomas Cook airline's German counterpart Condor has been saved by their respective government.

The sister airline to Thomas Cook - employing 4,900 people - was deemed still profitable, and the German government offered the company 380 million euros in the form of loan guarantees that are subject to EU approval.

The Turkish tourism minister has also told ITV News their government offered 10 million euros to Thomas Cook late Sunday in the form of an advertising contract, and also offered to write off at least 10 per cent of what the company owes them.

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The same deal was proposed to Thomas Cook GMBH - the German sister business that has not gone into liquidation.

The Turkish government's offer would have saved Thomas Cook £25 million.

This has led to speculation as to why the British government did not intervene as the German and Turkish governments have done.

ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills tweeted: "The Turkish + German governments have shown a willingness to use taxpayers money to support Thomas Cook's business, albeit in a limited and targeted way.

"By contrast, the British government decided it was better to allow the company to fail and spend c£100m on repatriation."

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The travel agent had about 550 high street locations across the UK, however, it leased its planes, rented its shops and acted as a broker with third-party hotels and cruise ships, meaning it has minimal assets.

Some staff on the final Thomas Cook journeys on Monday evening were informed mid-flight that they had been made redundant effective immediately.

Passengers on the Las Vegas to Manchester service had a whip-round in support of cabin crew and handed over two carrier bags of cash after learning that staff would not be getting paid.

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Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, visited crew at Manchester Airport, and said some were owed up to three weeks’ wages.

However, other companies have stepped forward with offers of interview or work in an attempt to reach out to redundant staff.

Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet have both asked former Thomas Cook employees to register their interest for work opportunities, and Great Western Railway (GWR) and London North Eastern Railway (LNER) have both said they are looking for staff.

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One of the world’s oldest and largest travel companies, Thomas Cook had been trading for 178 years – having been established in 1841 by a cabinet maker who organised a day trip for temperance movement supporters.

As of this year, the group employed 21,000 people in 16 countries, operated 105 aircraft and 200 own-brand hotels and resorts.

Thomas Cook customers are advised to visit the CAA’s dedicated website, thomascook.caa.co.uk, for more information about what they should do next.