'We went through weeks of hell' say Thomas Cook staff

Staff at the new Hays Travel in Castleford, which was formerly Thomas Cook.
Staff at the new Hays Travel in Castleford, which was formerly Thomas Cook.

Staff at the former Thomas Cook store in Castleford went through ‘two-and-a-half-weeks of hell’ before being rescued by former rival Hays Travel, the shop's manager has admitted.

The shop on Carlton Lanes shut with immediate effect on September 23, along hundreds of others across the UK as the company collapsed into administration with the loss of thousands of jobs.

It was not until October 9 did Hays Travel announce it would take over all of the former Thomas Cook stores and re-open them.

Store manager Leanne Tomlinson, who has worked at Castleford for 20 years, said: “We had two-and-a-half weeks of absolute hell and turmoil.

“None of us knew what we were going to do and for many of us who have worked for years it was like we were grieving. When Hays made the announcement it was just absolute joy.

“The encouragement we’ve had since then has been absolutely amazing. People who are not even customers have just been coming in to say they’re really pleased to see us open again. It’s been overwhelming.”

Thomas Cook, which was the world’s oldest tour operator, collapsed due to ballooning debt. During mid September there were talks of a rescue package, but which failed to materialise.

Mrs Tomlinson added: “Even up to the day before were confident we would get the deal.

“I stayed up all night and the news broke on BBC in the early hours. It was just absolute disbelief and devastation.

“The next day we all met up and everybody was in shock, we had no expectation that this would happen.”

Now back open, she still sees a bright future for high street tour operators, adding: “There are people who like to book flights and hotel separately online, but there’s still a big demand for packages.

“There are many who still prefer to deal with people face to face.”