Almost 15,000 Thomas Cook holidaymakers were flown back to the UK on special flights in the first day of a mass repatriation effort.
The Civil Aviation Authority’s £100 million Operation Matterhorn emergency flying programme completed 64 flights on the first day of operation, returning the first 14,700 people to the UK – 95% of those due to return.
The regulator, which has charted 45 aircraft from around the world, plans to operate a further 74 flights today (Tuesday), with seats for more than 16,800 people to fly back to the UK.
About 60% of the cost will come out of the Air Travel Trust, the fund that arises from the Atol payments.
More than 1,000 flights are planned as part of the operation which will run until October 6.
With 13 days remaining and around 135,300 passengers still to bring back to the UK, the CAA said it was “working around the clock”, in conjunction with the government and the aviation industry, to deliver the flying programme after Thomas Cook ceased trading.
CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said: “Following the very sad news yesterday morning that Thomas Cook had stopped trading and its aircraft were grounded, we launched at the government’s request our operation to return more than 100,000 people to the UK.
“A repatriation of this scale and nature is unprecedented and unfortunately there will be some inconvenience and disruption for customers. We will do everything we can to minimise this as the operation continues.
“However, I am pleased to report that on day one we brought home over 95% of people who were originally due back on this day with Thomas Cook; 14,700 people in total.”
He added: “We want people to continue to enjoy their holiday, so we will bring them back to the UK on their original departure day, or very soon thereafter.”
CAA chairwoman Dame Deirdre Hutton told the BBC that the flying programme went well on Monday.
“We ran 64 flights, we brought back just under 15,000 people that was over 90% of those we intended to bring back which is actually pretty good for a first day.
“But I’m conscious that we’ve got a huge job to do still because that’s about 8% of the total but a reasonable start.”
She added: “There were some operational problems and we’ll continue to see those so again I ask people to bear with us as we deal with the bumpiness of this.”
Thomas Cook customers should check a dedicated website for further information – thomascook.caa.co.uk
Passengers in North American destinations are advised to check thomascook.caa.co.uk for details of how to contact British Airways or Virgin Atlantic who will book seats on their flights.
Flying programme information:
|Statistics||Day One||Totals to date|
|Passengers back in the UK||14,700||14,700|
|Unique visitors to dedicated site||1,825,166||1,825,166|
|Page views on dedicated site||6,845,009||6,845,009|