Business

Thomas Cook holidaymakers and crew 'trapped' in Cuba

Sue Petrow
Image caption Sue Petrow was due to fly home on Wednesday

Several Thomas Cook holidaymakers and crew in Cuba have said they are being prevented from leaving their hotels until they pay extra for their stay.

One holidaymaker, Sue Petrow, said she was due to fly home on Wednesday, but her hotel told her she may be held at the airport unless she pays her bill.

Cabin crew from Thomas Cook said they were effectively being "held hostage".

The British Ambassador to Cuba said hotels had now been instructed to allow customers to depart without paying.

Dr Antony Stokes said on Twitter: "Very grateful for patience of all affected in distressing circumstances."

Holidaymakers like Sue may have paid for their rooms and meals months in advance, but hotels would normally only receive the money from Thomas Cook several weeks after their stay.

Reports suggested there was a widespread problem in Cuba over whether the industry insurance fund Atol, which covers payments in the event of a firm failing, was recognised in the country.

The fund covers bills for rooms and food that have been run up since Thomas Cook's collapse on Monday morning.

However, bills run up at hotels before Thomas Cook's collapse will not be covered. Affected hoteliers will have to apply to the liquidators for their money.

Sue Petrow said her hotel had said Atol was not recognised in Cuba, but she and other holidaymakers had refused to pay.

"I'd already had to pay a large medical bill while here for my husband. My husband is diabetic. He has had three heart attacks. He only has medication until Saturday. We will carry him on to a plane if we have to."


How are customers protected?

If you are on a package holiday, you are covered by the Atol scheme.

  • The scheme will pay for your accommodation abroad, although you may have to move to a different hotel or apartment
  • Atol will also pay to have you brought home if the airline is no longer operating
  • If you have a holiday booked in the future, you will also be refunded by the scheme
  • If you have booked a flight-only deal, you will need to apply to your travel insurance company or credit card and debit card provider to seek a refund

What are your rights? Read more here.


Meanwhile, in another Cuban hotel, Thomas Cook cabin crew said they were effectively being "held hostage" by their hotel.

"There are security guards at the hotel the crew are at to prevent them from leaving. They haven't even been guaranteed rooms for tonight, so it could be a case of sleeping on the reception floor," a colleague of the staff affected told the BBC.

She urged action to get the staff home, saying "they've already been through more than enough".

Another holidaymaker, Shaun Woods, said his flight was due to depart on Wednesday, but the hotel said it would not let them get on the bus to the airport until they paid.

"They say they have wages to pay and we have been using their rooms and eating their food. It's getting very worrying now."

Mr Woods said around 30 Thomas Cook customers at his hotel had been affected.

A UK government spokesperson said it and the Civil Aviation Authority "were working around the clock to support all those affected".

"The government have deployed teams on the ground to support those affected, and are in contact with local authorities and hotels," they added.

Repatriation

On Monday, the CAA started repatriating British holidaymakers who were abroad at the time that Thomas Cook collapsed.

Dame Deirdre Hutton, CAA chairwoman, described Monday as "a pretty good day for a first day".

She told BBC 5 Live's Wake Up to Money: "We ran 64 flights, we brought back just under 15,000 people. That was over 90% of those we intended to bring back."

There will be more than 1,000 flights between now and Sunday 6 October to repatriate the remaining 135,300 holidaymakers, with 74 of those, returning around 17,000 people, scheduled for Tuesday.

The CAA has set up a dedicated website to keep Thomas Cook customers updated with the latest advice and news.

It is running a call centre and Twitter feed with open direct messages to respond to holidaymakers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The call centre can be reached on 0300-303-2800 inside the UK and +44 1753-330330 from abroad.

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