The first of three flights that will take part in the mass repatriation of stranded Thomas Cook holidaymakers has taken off from Shannon Airport.
Two more aircraft are due to depart later this afternoon after three jets were flown from the US to Shannon yesterday.
The repatriation of over 150,000 passengers stranded overseas began today and is expected to continue until October 6 and cost millions of euro. It is understood that as many as 600,000 customers in total have been affected by the group’s collapse.
Two Eastern Airlines Boeing 767-300s, with full crew, were flown from Miami to Shannon yesterday afternoon while a third aircraft arrived late last night.
After the crew had rested overnight, the first rescue flight departed Shannon this morning for the Spanish Island of Menorca to collect passengers and fly them to Gatwick Airport in England.
The other two aircraft will fly out this afternoon to yet unknown locations.
The Thomas Cook Group website confirmed: “The (UK) Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are now working together to do everything we can to support passengers due to fly back to the UK with Thomas Cook between 23 September 2019 and 6 October 2019.
"Depending on your location, this will be either on CAA-operated flights or by using existing flights with other airlines.”
“This repatriation is hugely complex and we are working around the clock to support passengers,” the company’s website states.
Thomas Cook Group had also previously used Shannon Airport as a training base for its pilots.
4,500 holidaymakers in the North have been left stranded following the collapse of Thomas Cook.
Less than 50 people from the south of Ireland have been affected after the British travel agent went bust.
The first rescue flight touched down at Gatwick from Split, Croatia, shortly before midday today.
It is the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation with ome 150,000 tourists are being brought home over the next two weeks in a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) flight programme costing £100m (€113m).
Forty-five aircraft from as far away as Malaysia have been chartered to operate approximately 1,000 flights from 53 airports in 18 countries over the next two weeks.
- additional reporting by Press Association