Hays Travel already employed more than 700 former Thomas Cook staff

By Kris Jepson

Hays Travel has told ITV News Tyne Tees that it has already employed 749 former Thomas Cook staff and is close to completing a further 260 employee contracts, which are "in the pipeline".

The news comes as seven of the North East's former Thomas Cook branches reopened on Thursday.

Watch @krisjepson's report here:

To date, shops have opened in Northumberland, Teesside, Tyne and Wear, Darlington, Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Speaking to ITV News Chair of the Hays Travel Group, Irene Hays, said she is "overwhelmed" with the response.

It’s been terrific this morning. We’ve had people coming in and cuddling the staff, it’s been absolutely sensational.

Irene Hays, Hays Travel Group
Hays Travel Credit: ITV News

The owners said they are planning to reopen all 555 branches they acquired just before midnight on Tuesday and rents have been settled up to the 24 December.

Founder John Hays told ITV News he is confident his company can succeed where Thomas Cook failed, because its business model is very different to that of the former airline.

He said "we’re really comfortable that we can take that foundation with he excellent Thomas Cook staff, add the independence that Hays Travel has of actually being able to sell to all tour operators, which wasn’t the case with Thomas Cook."

We are really humbled at the fantastic response there has been from our wonderful staff, our customers, suppliers, friends and many complete strangers who believe in what we’re doing. There’s a huge will to see our high street shops thrive and we’re determined that we will be doing our bit for the travel industry with the help of everyone in the now extended Hays family. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped make this happen - we know the hard work is just beginning for our brilliant teams.

John & Irene Hays
Hays Travel Credit: ITV News

New Hays Travel brochures took pride and place on the display shelf at the former Thomas Cook branch in Sunderland on Thursday.

Staff will now be trained to adapt to the working methods of Hays Travel and in the coming weeks and months the shops will be rebranded, both inside and out.

Single parent, Dionne Douglass, told ITV News she was devastated when she lost her job at Thomas Cook, but is thankful to Hays for employing her.

She said "I was very, very worried. I was straight on the phone the next day and I did get an interview very quickly within a day at Hays Travel so I was absolutely over the moon."

Watch Kris Jepson's report on the fall out of Thomas Cook's demise, 24 September.

They’ve saved a family, basically, yeh, one minute out of a job, texts 3am in the morning, out of work and then the next, euphoria, you’ve been given a job.

Joanne Liu, Former Thomas Cook employee

Hays Travel said the intention is to keep the former Thomas Cook stores trading profitably and to build on some of the Hays Travel business approach and ethos, supported by its "brilliant people".

The company said it has already opened over 20 shops on Thursday and more will open in the coming days.

Watch Kris Jepson's report on the demise of Thomas Cook, 23 September.