First Choice has vowed to set up a hotline to deal with disasters abroad after a homeworker spent more than five hours on hold trying to get through to its call centre potentially losing dozens of clients.

Jenny Jackson, who works for United Co-op’s subsidiary Personal Travel Advisors in Kent, was trying to change a client’s bookings last week for a holiday in Mexico in September to celebrate her husband’s 40th birthday with friends.

After their hotel was damaged by recent hurricanes, Thomson allowed the friends to change accommodation and Jackson’s clients wanted to do the same with First Choice. But between Thursday and Monday, First Choice’s Manchester call centre was so busy following the bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh average waiting times were 50 minutes.

Jackson said she had to make numerous calls to First Choice over the weekend after the operator refused at first to cancel the holiday free of charge. One call-centre worker told her he had 70 calls waiting.

“We work on commission only, so while I’m tied up on the phone, I’m losing other calls. On Thursday when I came off the phone after three hours, I had to hold on for another hour and a half trying to sort it out and I had 17 missed calls,” Jackson said.

A First Choice spokeswoman said the situation was regrettable but following the bombings in Egypt, the call centre was unusually busy.

“The volume of calls was obviously made higher by the incident in Egypt. We’re planning to have a separate helpline set up for anyone calling about a particular incident,” she said.