Peterborough couple’s fears for dream £7,500 wedding if Thomas Cook goes bust

A Peterborough couple fear their dream warning could be left in disarray should Thomas Cook go bust.

Sunday, 22nd September 2019, 1:04 pm
Martine Mitchell and Tony Harper

Tony Harper and fiancée Martine Mitchell are set to tie the knot in Cyprus next month, but their plans could be left in tatters should the travel giant - which has its head office at Lynch Wood in Peterborough - go into administration as it seeks another £200 million to satisfy the banks.

The couple from Dogsthorpe have spent £1,500 on flights and accommodation for 25 guests, on top of another £6,000 for the service and reception.

But now they are anxiously watching the news to find out if they will need to make last minute alterations for their dream day after months of planning.

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Tony (27) said they did not know whether to try and scramble together enough money to book new flights, with the wedding party all due to be flying out on different days.

He said: “We don’t know what to do. We’ve got to get flights there because the package is all paid for a with different company.

“We don’t know what will happen with the accommodation, if it has been paid for and if we can go to the hotel.

“Martine is picking up her dress on the day we’re meant to fly out.

“We’re unbelievably stressed. I can’t comfort her because I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s been unreal.

“She’s just sat there watching the news.

“We’ve still not heard anything from Thomas Cook.

“I have tweeted and emailed them but not heard anything back.”

Customers who are on a package holiday are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (ATOL).

This means that their accommodation abroad will be paid for, although they may have to move to a different hotel or holiday home. Their flights home are also guaranteed to be covered if the airline is no longer operating.

The scheme covers refunds for future holidays people have booked that are cancelled.

Thomas Cook will hold talks with key players this morning (Sunday) in a final bid to piece together a rescue deal.

The move comes as holidaymakers at a hotel in Tunisia report being locked in by security guards as the hotel demands extra money in fear it will not be paid by the firm, which has its head office in Peterborough.

If the company goes bust 1,200 city jobs could be left at risk.

Sunday’s crisis meeting, first reported by Sky News, is understood to be taking place at City law firm Slaughter & May.

Among those attending will be the firm’s biggest shareholder along with creditors.

The travel company is at risk of falling into administration within days unless it finds £200 million in extra funds.

A collapse would leave up to 150,000 UK holidaymakers stranded and the Government is being urged to step in to help save the business.

Thomas Cook continued to reassure worried customers on Saturday night that their flights continue to operate as normal and all their package holidays are ATOL-protected.

However, tourists at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, say their hotel is refusing to let guests leave while demanding extra money.

Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, told BBC Radio Five’s Stephen Nolan show the hotel had on Saturday afternoon summoned all guests who were due to leave to go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.

With many tourists refusing pay on the grounds they had already paid Thomas Cook, security guards were keeping the hotel’s gates shut, refusing to allow guests out, or to let new visitors enter.

“We can’t leave the hotel. I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage,” Mr Farmer said.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents workers at the company, said the Government should be ready to assist with “real financial support”.

General Secretary Manuel Cortes called for an urgent meeting with Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

He said in a letter: “It is incumbent upon the Government to act if required and save this iconic cornerstone of the British high street and the thousands of jobs that go with it.

“Thomas Cook can be a highly successful business and must be given every opportunity to flourish. I urge you to stand ready to assist Thomas Cook with real financial support.

“The company must be rescued no matter what. No British government in its right mind would countenance the loss of so many jobs and the prospect of just one major travel operator - TUI - controlling the mass market.”

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “This is yet more evidence of this Government’s indifference to British jobs and businesses going under.

“All viable options must be explored by Thomas Cook and the Government must consider stepping in and taking an equity stake to avoid this crisis.

“Refusing to do so is ideological shortsightedness; the Government faces a simple choice between a £200 million government cash injection to save the company now versus a £600 million bill to repatriate UK holidaymakers.”

It is understood that Thomas Cook has approached the Government in an attempt to plug a gap in its funding.

A Government spokesman said: “We recognise it’s a worrying time for holidaymakers and employees.

“The financial circumstances of individual businesses are a commercial matter, but the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are monitoring the situation closely.”