THE collapse of a major holiday firm has come as a 'hammer blow', a managing director has said.

Despite attempting to secure a vital rescue deal with its major shareholder and creditors on Sunday, Thomas Cook has now cancelled all future flights and booked holidays.

Don Bircham, managing director for Hays Travel North West, said its Wrexham store in particular saw thousands through the door on Monday morning looking for help.

Hays Travel has around 40 stores across the North West and North Wales and over 200 across the UK.

Mr Bircham said: "We were dealing with our own customers who booked Thomas Cook holidays but we were also helping those customers who booked in Thomas Cook shops.

"It was crazy all day, we were in at 6am (Monday) and had queues out the door all day. It will continue like that for the rest of the week with people trying to get rebooked.

"Under the circumstances it was great to see. People were waiting for a long time for alternative arrangements and everyone was remarkably patient and really understanding.

"We had thousands rebooked yesterday. We've had one or two calls from overseas but they are being looked after."

Thomas Cook, which has been in operation since 1841, left an estimated 150,000 Britons abroad awaiting repatriation.

It is also estimated that 20,000 people will lose their jobs.

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Mr Bircham, who used to work for Thomas Cook, said: "It came as a hammer blow to all of us.

"In some ways it could be looked at as an advantage to travel agencies like ours but we were more concerned about friends and family losing their jobs.

"There was accusations yesterday of price rises but we managed to rebook so many people I don't think it was a huge problem. Some took a bit of an advantage but on the whole it wasn't too bad.

"Thomas Cook blamed the 'perfect storm' but we have been performing really well as a travel agency. The travel business is challenging but for us, and many others, it's been fine. TUI is performing well and EasyJet.

"I think what happened was a result of a long term issue with finance and loans, it's not a reflection of the travel industry."

The Department for Transport (DfT) has stated that all customers, who are currently abroad with Thomas Cook and who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks, will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date.

Thomas Cook package holiday customers will also see the cost of their accommodation covered by the Government, through the Air Travel Trust Fund or ATOL scheme, the DfT said.

Mr Bircham is urging people not to panic as the situation will be sorted.

He added: "Don't panic, if you booked in a Thomas Cook shop, feel free to come in and we will be happy to help.

"ATOL means your money is protected and if you booked flights only, there are occasions where that is protected, so the majority of people will get money back.

"It was a sad day for employers and a great brand with such history and prestige. We are all saddened by it but I don't think it's any reflection on the travel industry.

"This shouldn't be misunderstood as a massive decline in the industry."

Becky Birch, from Holywell - who flew to Turkey on Thomas Cook flights said the news put a 'downer' on her holiday.

She said: "We booked our holiday through teletext but flights are with Thomas Cook.

"It has affected us pretty bad as my mum has terminal cancer so the holiday was booked to make memories. As soon as we knew they were going into liquidation it put a downer on the holiday as we were stressing of how we were going to get home.

"Mum needed to be back to see the specialist and for her medication, she also needs to get her picc line back in for her chemotherapy."

Becky is set to fly home on Tuesday night as part of the Civil Aviation Authority’s repatriation programme.