Peterborough team reacts when holiday spots become danger zones

Most of our holiday 'emergencies' will never make into the media but occasionally holiday makers get caught up in real life and death crises.

Friday, 16th June 2017, 5:30 pm
Updated Monday, 19th June 2017, 12:46 pm
Will Staples, duty office and customer welfare manager. EMN-170905-233534009

The Duty Office faces a battle against time to get thousands of holiday makers out of a resort as quickly as possible.

But the reasons why a popular holiday resort suddenly becomes a fearful no go zone are varied.

A key factor in the type of action that Thomas Cook can take will depend on the travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Advice against travelling to an area nullifies holiday insurance.

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When a lone gunman opened fire on defenceless tourists on a Tunisian beach in June 26, 2015, Thomas Cook had about 10,000 guests in the country.

Will Staples, UK duty manager and customer welfare officer, said: “We found out about the attack on TV news. At first the FCO did not advise against travel to the area.

“We could only offer to bring people home and we found that some wanted to stay.

“We repatriated approximately 1,200 guests over four rescue flights in that first weekend.

“The Foreign Office advice changed on 9 July. A further 9,000 guests were brought home over the course of the following two weeks on our normal scheduled services.”

A different scenario faced the office in the Gambia last January when the president refused to hand over power after losing an election.

Almost without warning, the FCO advised against travel to the country and Thomas Cook had to evacuate 1,500 package customers and 2,000 seat only customers. The Duty Office brought them out on 16 different flights in three days. Ninety per cent were taken out within 48 hours.

When a Russian aeroplane was brought down by a bomb flying out of Sham el Sheikh, Egypt, the DfT imposed a ban on flights to the airport.

Hundreds of buggies were given to customers coming back who had to leave their luggage behind.