Dame Deirdre Hutton, chair of the CAA, accompanied 400 Thomas Cook customers on their return from Majorca to Manchester on Tuesday.
The Malaysia Airlines A380 service replaced seven cancelled Thomas Cook flights, with the CAA’s repatriation of 150,000 passengers set to continue through to Sunday.
The experience of holidaymakers on the flight appeared mixed. Leah and Charlotte from Warrington, away for the first time without their parents, were threatened with being thrown out of their hotel unless they paid more than £1,000.
Speaking to Travel Weekly on board the repatriation flight, Leah said: “We had a panic the morning Thomas Cook went under. The hotel told us ‘Pay £519 each today or you’ll be kicked out.’”
Charlotte said: “We showed them the Atol certificate on our booking. They wouldn’t accept the CAA guarantee of payment.”
“It was awful,” said Leah. “They said we had to get the money by 6pm or we’d be kicked out. That happened to a lot of people. They refused to speak to the CAA. We paid over £1,000. We had to ring our parents. Our grandparents lent the money. It was a four-star hotel and they didn’t even make our beds.”
The pair were away 10 nights and Cook failed on the second day of their holiday. Leah said: “The hotel was all-inclusive, but we didn’t spend any time there after it happened. We didn’t want to be there. It ruined the start of our holiday.”
By contrast, Michael Hall and Denise Glendening from Newcastle enjoyed their 10-day holiday. Michael said: “We’ve had a fabulous holiday. It didn’t spoil it. Thomas Cook kept us informed by text that we would get home on the day we were due to go.”
“It was all organised. I’ve been very impressed. We should have been on a flight to Newcastle, but they’ve said we’ll have a bus from Manchester.”
Denise added: “It was the first time we’d flown with Thomas Cook.”
Mark Lee and Gillian Young from Barnsley booked with On the Beach and were due to fly home with Ryanair, but were rebooked on Thomas Cook Airlines because of a strike. Mark said: “We’re flying to Manchester and should be flying to East Midlands, but we’ll have a taxi.”
He and Gillian were away two weeks. When they heard Thomas Cook had collapsed, Mark said: “We were whittling a bit, wandering what would happen to the flights. But we got a text from the CAA. It’s been straightforward.”
Linda Lewis and Patricia Law, travelling with their husbands, booked with Tui – only their flights were with Thomas Cook. They were also due to fly to East Midlands. Linda said: “The taxi will take at least two hours. But our experience has been good. The Tui rep didn’t seem to have the information I had from the CAA website, which was very good.”
She added: “We would book Tui again, but not fly on another airline.”
Hutton welcomed the passengers on board, telling them: “We know this was probably an unhappy experience on your holiday. I hope you’ve all had enough information.” She drew a round of applause, as did the Malaysia Airlines crew.