Thomas Cook employee tells how crew were held hostage by Cuba hotel
Published on Wednesday, September 25, 2019
A Thomas Cook employee has told how clients and crew were held in Cuba by a hotel that was refusing to let them leave until they’d paid again for their accommodation.
She said the Hotel De Paradisus Rio De Oro, a Melia property in Playa Esmeralda, brought in security guards to prevent staff from going to the airport, where an Air France was waiting to fly them back to the UK.
As they’d already checked out of their rooms, she said they faced being forced to sleep on the floor.
“They are being held hostage by Cuban authorities,” she said.
Staff explained to the hotel that the bills would be covered by Thomas Cook’s ATOL, but she said the hotel refused to accept that the CAA would be forthcoming. It seems there was a lack of understanding of the ATOL system within Cuba generally.
The British Embassy was contacted, she said, but added that they hadn’t initially provided any assistance.
Eventually, the British Ambassador to Havana, Antony Stokes, became involved and appears to have successfully negotiated with the Cuban authorities on behalf of the passengers and crew.
He tweeted: “Hotels in #Cuba now have authority/instruction to allow customers, and air crew, to depart without paying (on basis of ATOL guarantee).
“Very grateful for patience of all affected in distressing circumstances.” and all the crew and passengers were allowed to leave for their flight.
CAA chairwoman Dame Deirdre Hutton said they were on a flight back to the UK this morning.
By yesterday evening, around 30,000 of the 150,000 customers who were abroad when Thomas Cook announced its insolvency have arrived back in the UK. The CAA will continue its repatriation effort until October 6.
It says all customers will be able to complete their holidays, and they’ll be flown home on their normal date of departure, ‘or very soon after’.
However, there have been other stories of hotels in Europe and North Africa insisting that passengers pay again for their accommodation as they haven’t received any payments from Thomas Cook for several weeks.
Also, while Thomas Cook’s ATOL will cover bills for guests after the tour operators’ collapse, it won’t pay off the debts the operator has run up with hoteliers in the weeks before its failure. For these payments, they will have to appeal to Thomas Cook’s liquidators.
There have been suggestions that some hotels are trying to force holidaymakers in resorts this week to pay for previous guests’ visits.
The CAA has issued the following advice: “If you are experiencing difficulties with your ATOL-protected hotel, or your hotel is requesting payment from you, please call our call centre on +44 1753 330 330. Please note that it may take the CAA a few days to secure these arrangements.
“While arrangements are being made, please do not make a payment to your hotel unless instructed otherwise by the CAA team. If our guarantee is not accepted by the accommodation provider, we may need to relocate you to another hotel for the duration of your stay. In these circumstances, the CAA will inform other suppliers, such as transfers, of the change to your accommodation and flight details.”
It added that customers staying in any of the nine Thomas Cook-owned hotels on ATOL-protected packages might have to be moved to other accommodation.”