TERRIFIED Thomas Cook staff have claimed they are being “held as ransom” in Cuba as the country refuses to accept promises their bills will be paid.
Dozens of British holidaymakers on Thomas Cook packages and at least 11 members of staff were left stuck on the island after the travel firm went bust this week.
But while the UK Government agreed to fly home the 150,000 customers stranded worldwide, Cuban authorities refused to let them leave their hotels, claiming they hadn’t paid.
The British ambassador was forced to intervene after Britons reported being ‘held hostage’ in a number of resorts where guards tried to stop them leaving.
Thomas Cook worker, Ellie Moffet, explained the situation in a Facebook post where she said she hoped to leave the island soon.
She wrote: “Been a mad couple of days, still absolutely heartbroken about the demise of Thomas Cook, and now things have just got completely worse.
“I understand I’m stuck in Cuba, and everyone thinks that’d be amazing, but right now it’s turning very scary and political very bloody fast.
Thomas Cook customers stuck in Cuba[/caption]
“We’re effectively being held as ransom until someone higher up in the British Government pays anything or speaks up.
“The country is a communist country, so effectively this is one of the worst places to be stranded in!!!
“It’s amazing to see how many people back at home, who’ve lost their jobs and incomes, but are still trying desperately to get us noticed by the media, any help they can get.
“Some are even rallying round to get money to pay our hotel fees that they’re demanding we pay. It’s so nice to see the little aviation community coming together.
“Everyone who’s messaged me nice messages, I appreciate them all so much, and hope we’re out of here as soon as.”
‘THIS IS DISGRACEFUL’
Holidaymakers and cabin crew claim the Cuban Government does not recognise the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL protection scheme.
Under normal circumstances the government would only agree to rescue passengers with ATOL cover.
But amid the Thomas Cook crisis they have agreed to fly all stranded customers home, triggering the largest repatriation of UK citizens since the Second World War.
Other frustrated customers complained of family members being stuck in Cuba and being asked to pay more than £1000 to leave.
And some claimed security guards at hotels were threatening guests who were refusing to pay due to Thomas Cook going bust.
Thomas Cook customers from Britain listen to a tour guide in Havana[/caption]
One concerned relative said: “’My mum is staying in Cuba, they are holding her hostage not letting her leave until she pays for her whole stay which she has already payed for.
‘This is f***ing disgraceful, she was locked out of her room and threatened by guards.’
Another person posted on social media: ‘Any up to date info on the #ThomasCook fiasco? My parents are basically hostages #Cuba #notthebest.’
Callum Weston, 27, and Bethany Sharp, 23, were told they had to pay £1,100 at the Bahia De Lobos in Fuerteventura or else the cops will get involved.
The couple got engaged at the start of their 10-day holiday on September 18 after paying more than £2,000.
He claims the hotel manager had threatened to put them on the streets – but eventually let up and said they could stay last night without making a payment.
Thomas Cook aircraft[/caption]
The British Embassay in Cuba reassured customers and staff by posting on Twitter: “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.”
The CAA has set up a dedicated website to keep Thomas Cook customers updated with the latest advice and news.
It is running a call centre and Twitter feed with open direct messages to respond to holidaymakers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The call centre can be reached on 0300-303-2800 inside the UK and +44 1753-330330 from abroad.