Thomas Cook: Ex-employees work for free to help holidaymakers

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Ex-Thomas Cook branch manager Donna Jones, centre, said customers first concern was for staff

Ex-Thomas Cook staff across England are working for free to help holidaymakers to salvage their trips.

Employees who lost their jobs when the travel firm collapsed have set up pop-up shops to help customers fill in claim forms or rebook holidays.

At least 100 people queued in a shopping centre in Longton in Stoke-on-Trent to speak to Thomas Cook staff.

Former branch manager Donna Jones said staff were working for free “out of our love for our customers.”

“I cried as soon as I opened the door,” she said. “There’s lots of emotions but we’ve got to lock them all away just so we can get through and give the advice that we need to give.”

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Thomas Cook staff opened a pop-up shop in Stoke-on-Trent to help customers

Alison and Robert Hart were due to go on a family holiday to Egypt last week – but went to Skegness instead.

Mr Hart said: “We might have lost our holiday but they’ve lost their career. They’ve lost their jobs, they’ve got children to feed, a mortgage to pay for – it’s just wrong.”

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Alison and Robert Hart swapped Egypt for Skegness

In the queue outside, Tara Davidson told the BBC: “I’m proud of them. It’s really good of them that they can do this for us when they don’t have to.”

Kenneth Mills said: “They’re a credit to the company that’s just sacked them.”

Diane Spraggon, who started a collection for the former staff, said: “It’s so nice of these girls to come out here and do this for nothing.”

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At least 100 people queued outside a pop-up shop run by former Thomas Cook staff in Stoke-on-Trent

In Telford, Shropshire, staff locked out of their former workplace set up shop in a nearby cafe to give customers advice.

In Walsall, branch manager Georgia Browning and assistant manager Shannon Faulkner based themselves at a local pub.

“It feels strange sat here in our uniforms for the last time but we wanted to help customers fill in their claims forms and to say goodbye,” said Ms Browning.

“Our customers’ first thought was for us, they know their holidays are protected they’re just concerned about us,” she said.

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Georgia Browning

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Pub landlord Clinton Hartland, with Thomas Cook former staff Georgia Browning, Shannon Faulkner and Emily Hartland.

Cabin manager Martin Browne and his wife had 40 years of service at Thomas Cook between them when they both lost their jobs.

“Some of my cabin crew colleagues have been helping stranded people get back,” he said.

“Their jobs are over as soon as everyone is repatriated and they’ve been buying toilet roll and plastic cups out of their own pocket because all they’ve been given is an empty aircraft.

“But that’s what we do, we are problem solvers and there’s no one else the customers can ask at 40,000 feet.

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Martin Browne

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Cabin manager Martin Browne has been helping colleagues to fill in redundancy forms

Mr Browne is a union rep has been helping colleagues fill out redundancy and benefits forms.

“I’m a volunteer, I’m not being paid I’m just trying to help as many people as I can, but at the same time, I’ve still got to fill in my own redundancy forms,” he told the Manchester Evening News.

“I think I’m keeping busy because if I stop and think, I don’t know what I’ll do,” he said.

Some Thomas Cook customers have been told they may have to wait as long as two months to receive a refund for holidays.