BRIT couples face losing £20,000 weddings and dream holidays as Thomas Cook nears collapse.
The 178-year-old British travel firm faces going bust at 11.59pm tonight unless £200million can be secured to pay creditors – leaving anxious couples booked for overseas weddings in limbo.
Chloe Hardy, from Leicestershire, is due to get married in Zante in October and booked the wedding package with Thomas Cook back in June 2018.
She said: “We are due to fly out on Thursday. Our wedding is costing almost £12,000 with things we have bought here, the wedding package, everything we have organised with the resort wedding coordinator”.
Chloe and her fiancé will also have 33 family members flying out, with their trips costing more than £33,000 in total.
She said: “We are unsure if we will be able to fly. Although, it’s ATOL-protected I have booked three weeks’ leave from work and there’s no guarantee that I will be able to get time off if I had to re-book.”
The travel company’s chief executive was filmed leaving the crisis talks today with this head down.
Dr Peter Fankhauser, 58, remained tight lipped after he emerged from the eight-hour meeting at law firm Latham & Watkins, in Bishopsgate, central London.
The Swiss businessman didn’t answer questions on if a deal had been reached or if they are considering asking the government for a bailout.
Thomas Cook has begged its lenders to cut the £200million demand to see them through the winter period.
Matthew Moore, 30, and his partner Aaron, 28, were set to fly from Belfast to Cyprus in two weeks’ time for their wedding.
They have 26 wedding guests who have also paid for flights to Cyprus and have been planning their big day for nearly two years.
They fear they’re going to be left out of pocket for the dresses, suits, flowers and decorations they’ve already paid for if Thomas Cook goes bust.
Matthew, from Lurgan in County Armagh, told the Sun Online: “We’ve been planning the wedding from last April – we are hoping to marry in Protaras, in Cyprus, there’s 26 wedding guests.
“Our flights are due out in two weeks’ time and then a lot of the other guests are due to come out the week after.
“There’s only one flight that goes out from Belfast to Larnaca with Thomas Cook, so you can’t fly out with any other airline.
“Everything else has been sorted out in Cyprus. At the moment we don’t know what to do. The only other option would be to fly from Dublin to Paphos but there’s no guarantee there’s seats available on those flights.
“There’s no other airline that flies from Northern Ireland to Cyprus. If Thomas Cook goes go under, we’ll be left with the suits, flowers, money all paid for.
“We’re still hoping at the minute that we’ll be able to go. We’ve booked three weeks off for this. At the minute it’s too late to book anywhere [at home].
“All the stress of planning a wedding is hard enough but this is causing serious anxiety and sleepless nights.”
COUPLES IN LIMBO
Matthew said the flights had cost around £400 each.
He said: “A few of the guests have been asking us whether we know what’s going on..but we’re just telling them what we’re getting told by Thomas Cook. They’re contacting us saying they’re stressed and we’re trying to tell them ‘well can you understand how stressed we are?’
“If it was a normal holiday it wouldn’t be so bad but it’s a wedding.”
The couple have forked out around £20,000 in total for their dream day.
Matthew, who has been in a relationship with Aaron for five years, added: “These past few days have been very traumatising for my partner and I, we had all the joys of having finalised everything and getting to relax to the lead up and now we don’t know where we stand.”
FIRM ON THE BRINK
The troubled operator hoped to seal a rescue led by China’s Fosun, owner of Club Med, this week.
But its lenders, which include about 10 banks led by taxpayer-saved Royal Bank of Scotland, demanded the travel company find an extra £200m.
If the company cannot secure the extra funding it risks going bust.
Another couple’s dream wedding in Cyprus is also in jeopardy due to the possible collapse of the firm.
Chloe Sharpe and Paul Kerfoot, both 27, are tying the knot next month, with 50 guests expected to attend.
Paul proposed at a church in the seaside resort of Protaras while they were holidaying there in 2017.
Chloe, from Loughborough, said: “Our Thomas Cook wedding coordinator hasn’t got back to my emails. It’s very stressful for both Paul and I.
“As it’s so close to going, it feels like we aren’t going to be able to get married.
“If they do go bust, we’d have to sort another wedding out. Cyprus means a lot to us emotionally.”
Hairdresser Chloe said: “It’s a lot of money to lose and if they do go bust, it’s a case of finding another £6,000 to find another holiday and find another wedding package. It’s not a nice situation to be in.”
An extra £9,000 has been spent on extras, such as a photographer from Marbella and a trip out on a boat for guests.
‘TERMINALLY ILL MUM MAY MISS IT’
Katy Williams fears her £50,000 dream wedding in Ayia Napa could end “in tatters” if the troubled chain goes bust.
It would force her to start planning from scratch – and may mean terminally ill mum Carol Milne, 63, misses out.
The 33-year-old is due to marry fiancé Peter Whyman on October 2.
But Thomas Cook’s financial problems mean their flights to Cyprus and hotel rooms for 48 guests are at risk.
“It’s touch and go,” she said. “I’m not sleeping. It’s horrible. I’m just numb.
“My head is in the clouds. It’s the not knowing and the fact we can’t do anything about it.”
‘UP IN THE AIR’
Jamie Valentine, 32, from Glasgow, was due to fly to Zante on October 3 ahead of his wedding five days later.
He and his partner of his eight years, Clare, 28, have already spent £4,000 on their wedding – and 27 of the guests are booked on Thomas Cook.
He told the Sun Online: “Everything is up in the air. It’s a very stressful time at the minute. It was also going to be our first family holiday…our three kids were really excited.
“It was going to be my kids’ first holiday abroad. We’re holding off as long as possible…we’ve got a back-up plan but it’s not really ideal, it would mean a low-key wedding.”
Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini in September.
She said: “The wedding package includes wedding venue, celebrant to marry us, bouquets etc and we have around 30-35 guests flying out with us.”
She said she now fears she and Dean, 27, who live in the Midlands, could be left having to reorganise wedding plans.
Meanwhile Joanne Wright, 35, and fiancé Paul Anderson, 30, face losing £7,000 if their holiday to Playa Pesquera in Cuba for their wedding in less than a month does not go ahead.
Their children – flower girls Phoebe, 12, Hollie, two, and best man Alfie, five, are set to fly out for the family wedding.
Miss Wright, from Eastriggs, Dumfries and Galloway, said: “I’m totally stressed and devastated. It’s all booked and paid for, there’s 24 of us going. For the five of us it’s £7,000, which we finished paying in the summer.”
BRITS ‘HELD HOSTAGE’
Elsewhere Brit holidaymakers in Tunisia told how they were being “held hostage” in hotels last night.
Gates were locked and guests were warned they had to settle up with their hotels — despite having already paid Thomas Cook.
Those who forked out the extra money by credit card at Les Orangers in Hammamet have now been refunded by Thomas Cook and moved elsewhere.
Claire Simpson, who was due to fly home to Manchester last night, told The Sun: “Les Orangers have locked the gates to the hotel and are keeping people hostage.
“Three buses came to take people to the airport and they’ve been turned away.
“They are claiming Thomas Cook hasn’t paid them, so are demanding that we pay them.”
She said the hotel had stationed security guards along the beach so holiday-makers “couldn’t escape”.
One tourist claimed an OAP was charged £2,500 on her credit card, and another person had to pay £1,800 to get the keys to their room.
A £100m flight operation to repatriate more than 160,000 British tourists, called Operation Matterhorn, is ready to be launched by the government if last-ditch talks fail.
People on package holidays are Atol-protected, meaning the government would have to launch the biggest peacetime repatriation of British citizens at an estimated cost of £600m to the taxpayer.
The historic company, saddled with debts of about £1.7bn, has been hit by fierce competition from low-cost airlines and online firms such as Airbnb.
Were the 178-year-old company to go bust, some 9,000 British jobs potentially could be lost, and 21,000 worldwide.
Speaking today security minister Brandon Lewis said he hoped talks about the future of Thomas Cook come to a “positive conclusion” today.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show this morning: “We have got all the contingency planning to make sure no one will be stranded.
“I don’t want to give all the details of it because it depends on the nature of how people are out there, whether they have got a package holiday or whether they just paid for the flights and sorted out something separately.”
It is understood Thomas Cook has approached the Government in an attempt to plug a gap in its funding.
A Government spokesman said: “We recognise it’s a worrying time for holidaymakers and employees.
“The financial circumstances of individual businesses are a commercial matter, but the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are monitoring the situation closely.”
What would happen if Thomas Cook collapsed?
Thomas Cook is one of the world’s largest travel companies.
It was formed by a cabinet maker of the same name.
Mr Cook organised his first trip in 1841, taking around 500 supporters of the temperance movement on a day trip by train from Leicester to Loughborough.
His first commercial venture was an outing to Liverpool in 1845, before expanding to overseas trips in 1855.
If Thomas Cook does collapse, the Civil Aviation Authority is expected to launch a major repatriation operation to fly home UK holidaymakers stranded abroad.
This will involve hiring aircraft at a cost to taxpayers of millions of pounds.
When Monarch went bust in October 2017, the Government spent £60 million getting passengers home.
Customers who booked a package holiday through Thomas Cook will be financially protected through the Atol scheme.
That means those already abroad will be able to continue with their holiday and an alternative flight home will be organised for them.
Those with future bookings will be offered a full refund.
Anyone who bought a flight-only deal through Thomas Cook is likely to have to contact their credit or debit card provider in a bid to get their money back.
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