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Update: Thomas Cook Belgium cancels flights
Update: Thomas Cook Belgium cancelled all of its package holiday departures from Belgium on Tuesday - just a day after reassuring passengers that the Belgian branch of the troubled tour operator remained "fully operational".
No customers with a Thomas Cook Belgium or Neckermann holiday booking were able to take off on Tuesday. It comes after the British travel agent announced bankruptcy over the weekend, with thousands of passengers stranded at holiday destinations around the world, awaiting news of how they can return home.
Brussels Airlines had said on Monday evening that it would "be forced to start cancelling flights" that it operates on behalf of Thomas Cook, because the tour operator "cannot honour its backlog of payments from recent weeks". Two return flights from Brussels to Enfidha and Djerba in Tunisia were cancelled early on Tuesday.
Consumer protection watchdog Test-Achats has set up a free phone line for anyone with concerns about their Thomas Cook Belgium (or Neckermann) booking. The number is 0800 50 104.
Tuesday will be a crucial day for the Belgian branch of the tour operator, with meetings planned between staff, management and union reps. The company's 600 Belgian staff are expecting to have their salaries paid on Wednesday.
"I don't know why, but I'm pretty sure that this is going to end badly," said Katrien Degryse, a Setca trade union rep at Thomas Cook.
Patrick Van Holderbeke, from the Flemish trade union ACV, told VRT that if salaries were not paid on time, "we are heading towards the end of Thomas Cook Belgium".
On Monday, Thomas Cook Belgium said it remained “fully operational” in Belgium and that holidays would go ahead as normal.
There are some 10,000 Belgian residents currently travelling with Thomas Cook Belgium. The company does not operate its own airline in Belgium, using Brussels Airlines for its flights.
Should the Belgian branch cease operations, that would not be good news for travellers, according to VRT economics journalist Steven Rombaut. “There are two big players on the package travel scene,” he said. “Thomas Cook and TUI have a kind of duopoly. If one of them disappears, the remaining one has a monopoly. And that can lead to higher prices for travellers.”
Photo: Thierry Roge/BELGA