'It was like a hostage situation' says holidaymaker after she was locked in to hotel in Tunisia
PUBLISHED: 14:29 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:55 23 September 2019
A Norfolk woman told today how she and her partner were imprisoned in their hotel and their Wi-Fi turned off because of the Thomas Cook collapse.
Michele Willis, 55, an estate agent and her boyfriend Andrew Charman, 50, were enjoying a fortnight's break in Les Orangers Beach hotel in Hammamet until things turned nasty.
It comes as Thomas Cook ceased trading at 2am yesterday creating a travel chaos for 160,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad with the firm as well as those facing their dream breaks scrapped. Many people were thinking too of the thousands of employees now jobless.
Michele, from Hopton-on-Sea, told this newspaper from her hotel in Tunisia: "It started on Saturday when an announcement was made at the hotel that if you were leaving that day or Sunday to go to reception. Those people were then issued with bills to check out because Thomas Cook hadn't paid.
"One little old lady was handed a bill for £2,500." But then things got worse.
"It got extremely heated when the hotel security staff wouldn't let people out or in through the gates. Coaches were trying to bring new people in and couldn't get through. People trying to leave were going up to the gates with their suitcases trying to get out but the hotel wouldn't open the gates.
"It was really scary, we were going out for an evening meal and couldn't so we stayed in the hotel. It was very intimidating, I was very nervous as it felt like a hostage situation. The hotel was demanding money out of people and were not letting us go and they also turned off the WiFi.
"People started complaining and the police and the British embassy got involved. People were eventually let out only when someone from Thomas Cook arrived with a lot of money in cash. I've cried a lot. I feel a bit better today but there's a weird atmosphere here and no new holidaymakers have been brought there, instead they have been booked into the hotel next door. We feel very vulnerable but both my partner and I are quite level-headed so we have tried to help other people. To be honest, we just want to come home."
She said home office minister Brandon Lewis had offered his personal help and the Thomas Cook rep had also been excellent, coming in to the hotel today, in his uniform, despite having lost his job, to help.
Michele, who works in lettings for Bycroft Residential, and her partner, who is a coach driver, had saved all year for the holiday, booking through Thomas Cook, which they have done regularly. The couple have logged their details onto the CAA website and are expecting to be brought home to Gatwick, where they flew from, this coming Saturday as scheduled.
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