The Thomas Cook Group is the oldest and best-known name in leisure travel with a history of innovation that started in 1841. Over 23 million customers choose to travel with Thomas Cook each year.
The basis of BCT’s contract with Thomas Cook Airlines is to provide emergency transport and accommodation solutions when weather or other external circumstances prevent them from operating flights from UK airports. In an average year BCT will assist in over 75 separate invocations, moving and accommodating over 10,000 passengers.
In 2015 Thomas Cook Airlines experienced two unprecedented situations where their customers were placed well beyond the everyday inconvenience of flight disruptions.
In June 2015 following the terrorist attack in Tunisia which killed 38 tourists, 30 of them British, Thomas Cook Airlines evacuated 2,000 package holiday customers. Thomas Cook asked BCT to manage onward transport for their customers once they arrived back to Manchester Airport.
In under two hours, at one of the busiest times of the year for ground transport, BCT arranged for five vehicles at 04:00 GMT as the news was just filtering through about the tragedy. Within hours BCT had arranged a further 12 coaches to transport the returning holidaymakers from Manchester Airport to their homes. The attack was headline news and BCT’s operators were therefore no doubt aware of it but it was important that they were briefed about the circumstances of the invocation so that they could deal with their passengers compassionately, and treat media attention with discretion. They briefed verbally when bookings were made, in writing on the booking confirmation and finally the drivers were reminded during tracking about the sensitivity of the issue.
By the third day BCT had moved 1123 affected passengers in 47 vehicles ranging from taxis and MPVs to 51-seater executive coaches. One week later Thomas Cook were still flying reparation flights to Tunisia bringing back the remaining tourist who had not yet been able to get home.
On 31st October, when a Russian airliner broke up in the skies over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killing all 224 passengers, Thomas Cook Airlines arranged another emergency evacuation to ensure the safety of its customer in Egypt. BCT received an initial invocation alert from Thomas Cook Airlines outlining the basis requirement.
Repatriating 2000 holidaymakers from Sharm el-Sheikh was not a simple matter. Passengers endured travel chaos and conflicting information about whether their flights would take off as a result of the Egyptian authorities only permitting a few flights to land, with many flights being turned away. At the UK end this meant working closely with our clients and constantly rescheduling ground transport.
By the time the first tourists arrived back at Manchester on the 6th November they were physically and emotionally exhausted, and the focus of much media attention. Over the next eight days of the invocation BCT arranged 63 vehicles to transport people from Manchester airport to their homes throughout the UK.
Egypt’s authorities announced that just eight flights will depart from Sharm el-Sheikh for the UK, rather than the 29 initially expected as frustrated passengers waited for information.