Updated 16:30 Thursday 26 September:
In the early hours of Monday morning the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced the failure of the Thomas Cook Group, including Thomas Cook Airlines, an airline we chartered on a number of our Greek flight routes. Whilst there had been wide spread media reports over the preceding weekend, and murmurs within the industry, the news was something that none of us wanted to hear. The operator who pioneered the tourism industry and opened up numerous destinations to the masses had been placed into receivership after 178 years of business.
There are few of us in travel who have not worked with the company or had a relationship with the organisation and its employees during our careers. Many of us at Sunvil are friends with people and know businesses directly affected by this collapse. The fallout of the failure will be far-reaching with destinations and many in their supply-chain affected.
At 02:00, and with an announcement such as this, there is no time for emotions to get the better of you. It was at this time we released our prepared statements online and on social media.
By 04:00 a small team had gathered at our office in Old Isleworth and our tried and tested crisis plan put in play. New flights were booked for passengers travelling imminently and a work plan developed. We had taken the decision on Sunday, in advance of the announcement, to move all clients due to travel on 23 September to alternative carriers. This was at our expense but provided a welcome peace of mind to our guests and ensured that their holiday plans would continue regardless of the outcome of the Thomas Cook emergency talks.
At 08:00 the team was at full capacity and our first clients contacted. Alternative flights were offered at no additional charge to our guests, and a full refund offered to those whom the new travel plans were not convenient.
It was a busy day, crazy at times, lively and the situation ever-changing. In moments like these the travel industry shines. I do not think that there is another industry where competing businesses would work together to find resolutions; where employees pull together with the overriding aim to make people happy and to find their perfect holiday, and where our customer-centric businesses excel. We were looking after our clients and working with our travel agent partners to find new escapes for those whose holidays had been lost.
At the end of the day on Monday 23 September we had reprotected all of our clients scheduled to travel with Thomas Cook up until 29 September.
Work continued throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Thursday 26 September all of our affected guests had been contacted and offered alternative travel plans. To say that I am proud of the Sunvil and GIC The Villa Collection team and what we have achieved is an understatement.
Now is the time to take stock of what has gone before. Our thoughts go out to all of our industry colleagues who have lost their jobs and the hoteliers and myriad of other partners in destinations that have not only lost money, but relationships with long standing guests of many years. Travel is an amazing industry and the relationships outlive most of the companies. We are already receiving calls from guests of Thomas Cook who are trying to hunt down a new way to secure their holiday at their favourite hotel.
The holidays offered by Sunvil and GIC The Villa Collection are bonded by ATOL and offer 100% financial security.
Chris Wright, Managing Director