Hays Travel buy-out secures future of Thomas Cook branches and jobs

AT a time when closures are more prevalent than ever, there is cheerful retail news from the high streets in Hyde.

Hays Travel, which recently bought all 555 branches of Thomas Cook, has reopened the stores in the two Tameside towns, securing jobs and offering a service to the public.

In the case of the Hyde travel agency, it is another re-birth as it has also previously been Stantons, and Co-op Travel before Thomas Cook bought out the Co-op in 2011.

Five jobs have been saved at the Hyde travel agency in Market Place – manager Sally-Anne Jones, Sarah Fox, Stephanie Ashall, Emma Cooper and Hannah Rowarth.

Sarah, who had worked for Thomas Cook for 28 years, the last three at the Hyde branch, admitted it had been an emotional rollercoaster since the company’s collapse on Monday, September 23.

She explained: “It was surreal on the day as all the staff stayed up all night when the deadline passed to save the company.

“We knew we had lost our jobs on social media as when planes were landing in the early hours of the Monday morning and stickers were placed on the doors and the aircraft were impounded.”

Sarah added staff returned to the store on Monday morning with the manager and receiver and were given 10 minutes to retrieve personal belongings.

She said it took a fortnight to sink in that she had lost her job, having have to sign on to receive being out of work and to receive benefits.

“We didn’t get paid for September and it was difficult for some staff, especially one member who is a single parent. She was heartbroken,” she explained.

Sarah said the sale to Hays Travel, who promised to re-open all 555 branches, was brilliant news which was welcomed by staff and customers.

The Hyde travel re-opened on October 21 and Sarah said the feedback has been amazing.“We have had lots of people coming in and wishing us well and promising to support us,” she said.

And it was a momentous moment when Michael and Christine Bailey, from Hyde, became the first customers to book a holiday to Greece next summer.

Sally-Anne admitted they were in “limbo” during a challenging opening week as they had no telephone lines or internet but were open to take bookings.

The Hyde travel agency has always been profitable and especially popular with the elderly who do not use the internet. It also has a foreign exchange.

Sally-Anne is looking forward to the new era and to meeting company owners John and Irene Hays who have promised to visit all 555 of their newly acquired branches.

“They are very much family people and they look on us as being part of their family,” she said.

The Denton branch, which is located at Manchester Road, Crown Point, re-opened on Monday, November 4.

The branch’s three members of staff posted a message on Facebook shortly before the re-opening.

Part of the statement read: “We would like to thank every single customer who booked at Thomas Cook in Denton over the years and we hope to see you again soon at Hays Travel Denton.

“Thank you everyone also for all your kind messages and support over the last few weeks. We would not be able to do this without you.”

So far Hays Travel has reopened more than 350 former Thomas Cook branches.

More than 2,000 former Thomas Cook staff members have been offered new contracts.

A Hays Travel spokesperson said: “Our plan is to keep the stores open along with all of the remaining Thomas Cook branches.

“The stores at Denton and Hyde have now been open for some time and all of the original Thomas Cook staff have been invited back to work at both branches.”

John Hays added: “It has been so exciting to see the expansion into new territories such as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and witness the overwhelming support from the former Thomas Cook staff but also the general public as they welcome us to their high street.”

“It is truly heart-warming to see the eagerness and excitement of the new Hays Travel staff to get their branches up and running and become part of the family,” said Irene Hays.

As shops across the country are being reopened, they will include Hays Travel branding.

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