Standing in a long line or sitting on their suitcases, anxious Thomas Cook passengers at Palma airport faced an uncertain wait on Monday for a flight to Britain following the collapse of the travel giant.
At the same time many tourists arriving on Spain's resort island of Mallorca for the start of their holidays found the hotel reservations they made through the company were not valid.
La Autoridad Civil de Aviación británica ha dado garantías financieras a todos los hoteles con clientes protegidos por ATOL para que puedan quedarse en el hotel hasta que vuelen de vuelta a casa. En https://t.co/sF9o7Kdj0X hay información y consejos si tienes algún problema https://t.co/VT9Cg8Q3kc
— UK in Spain (@ukinspain) September 24, 2019
Marianne Strenger, a pensioner in her 70s who came to Spain from Berlin with her daughter for a one-week beach holiday, said reception staff at the Hotel Palma Bay said when she tried to check in that they had not received any money from Thomas Cook for her booking and she had to pay for her accommodation again.
“They treated me as if I was the one who was insolvent,” she told AFP outside the three-star hotel on Monday night.
Other guests at the hotel told of similar experiences when they tried to check in.
“We had to pay twice,” said Nils Lichte, a 30-year-old supermarket manager from Cologne.
Among those on Mallorca struggling to leave the island was Clare Osborne, who was worried she would not make it to a funeral of a family member in Glasgow on Tuesday.
The 49-year-old accountancy assistant was told she would be put on a 9 pm flight to Manchester and then face ” three-and-a-half to four-hour journey” by bus to Glasgow.
“So it's very tight and we don't really know if it's going to be nine o'clock, so I'm getting very anxious.”
Kevin Mundie, a 53-year-old hydraulics engineer, also had to return to Glasgow by flying first to Manchester, then making the rest of the journey by bus.
“It's going to be nearly 24 hours by the time we get home from when we got up this morning,” he said.
Volunteers distributed water to the passengers as they queued in the slow moving line to check in to the alternative flight to Manchester from Palma airport, Spain's third busiest.
British government officials, wearing yellow vests decorated with a Union Jack, were also on hand to provide information.
“They have been a great help,” said John Raid, 57, waiting with his wife and grandson.
The family had been scheduled to fly back to Newcastle on Monday morning, but have instead been put on an evening Iberia flight to Manchester.
From Manchester they have been told that a bus will be waiting to take them to Newcastle, about 145 kilometres (90 miles) away.
Raid said Thomas Cook staff continued to provide them with assistance on Monday morning as well as a free transfer to the airport.
“It's one of these things that happens,” he said.
'So much time worrying'
Other passengers however complained that they were not getting information from the collapsed company about how to get home and learned about return flights from other passengers.
“We're getting told so many different stories,” said Mary Care, 50, who was travelling back to Glasgow.
For Julie Payne, a 34-year-old store employee from Newcastle, the uncertainty about the fate of Thomas Cook cast a shadow over the last days of her beach holiday in Mallorca.
“We just spent so much time worrying about what was going to happen these last few days, looking up the news, instead of relaxing,” she said, sitting on her suitcase in line with two friends to check in for the Manchester flight.
Mary Allardycee, a 63-year-old sales assistant who was travelling back to Glasgow, said she had heard of Thomas Cook's problems, “but you never think it's going to happen to you”.
“You really don't, but unfortunately it has and there is nothing we can do about it so we are sitting here waiting to get a flight,” she said.
What to do if you are on a Thomas Cook holiday in Spain
Thomas Cook package holiday customers are covered by Atol – Air Travel Organiser’s Licence – which protects accommodation and return flights in case of the company going bust.
- Check for replacement flights
The first peice of advice issued by authorities is don't travel to the airport to catch your flight home unless you have been notified about a replacement flight.
All information about replacement flights will appear on the dedicated website.
Be prepared for the fact that your replacement flight may not be at the same time as your original or take you to the same destination. The CAA said it will provide buses between airports to ensure that passengers are transported to the airport they left from.
- Don't pay extra at hotel
The CAA said holidaymakers should not have to pay their hotel bills – bills that are usually picked up by the tour company after the stay – but that nervous hoteliers may try to pressurise tourists into leaving or foot their own bill. Any such requests should be refered to the CAA to deal with.
- What about other expenses incurred with cancellations?
Passengers currently overseas may also make claims for the cost of replacing ATOL protected parts of their trip, or for out-of-pocket expenses as a result of delayed flights home.
- Not yet on holiday?
ATOL Protected passengers with future bookings are entitled to a full refund for their cancelled holiday.
- What about flight only?
The British government has said that even flight-only customers will be taken care of, even though flight only bookings are not Atol protected.
“Everyone on a Thomas Cook holiday with a return flight to the UK within the two weeks will be brought home,” said the Department for Transport.
If your return flight is after the two week period then you may have to cover your own costs home.
- How to make a claim:
“The Civil Aviation Authority will be launching a service to manage all refunds by Monday 30th September, once the flying operation has progressed. This refunds service will seek to process all refunds within 60 days of full information being received.”