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Former Thomas Cook staff celebrate after Wolverhampton branch reopens

By Thomas Parkes | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

"We're like a family so we're happy to be back."

Ex-Thomas Cook staff Caroline Gunning, Natalie Woolley, Rachel Stevens, Kelly Thompson and Rob Thompson celebrate

Former Thomas Cook staff in Wolverhampton have celebrated after their jobs were saved by Hays Travel.

Employees at city centre's branch were emotional as they opened the doors for the first time in four weeks.

It comes after their jobs were saved following the collapse of Thomas Cook on September 23.

Hays Travel, based in Sunderland, bought Thomas Cook's 555 shops on October 9 – in a deal that promises to save 2,000 jobs.

Rob Thompson, store manager, said: "It's a dream come true, to be honest.

"I can't quite believe we've come back and it's all thanks to Hayes, who has saved us – they have done a fantastic job.

"I knew that it was advertised and all through the press, there was problems – but I thought we would pull through.

The new store, Hays Travel, has opened in place of Thomas Cook

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"I thought it was just noise and to find out in the early hours of Monday morning was gutting.

"I felt so sorry for the team and sorry for the customers. I felt we had let them down because we weren't there to support them.

"Now we're just raring to get going, to be honest.

"I've got quite a lot of my old team, too."

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Caroline Gunning, from Penn, has spent 17 years in Wolverhampton – with eight years in Telford.

Ex-Thomas Cook staff Caroline Gunning, Natalie Woolley, Rachel Stevens, Kelly Thompson and Rob Thompson celebrate

She had already lined up a job at Co-operative Travel in Bilston, but returned to the city centre Hays store when she heard the news.

Ms Gunning said: "I was in on the Sunday and we didn't believe we were going to close – I thought they would pull us through.

"We had stayed up all through the night and we were all absolutely devastated.

"I had got another job and they were fantastic, but as soon as I knew, I knew I wanted to come back.

"I've built relationships with customers and they really are friends.

"I would've not been able to walk past it – my heart is here."

Assistant manager Rachel Stevens, who has worked for Thomas Cook for 15 years, said the news of the firm's collapse was "heartbreaking".

She said: "A lot of us were talking through Whatsapp until one or two in the morning.

"We all knew on Monday morning and it was heartbreaking.

"I didn't believe it until I had the contract in front of me.

"I was like 'oh my gosh, I'm going back' – it's amazing here."

Kelly Thompson, from Wednesfield, who has worked for Thomas Cook for 16 years, said: "We were not really expecting it and then we saw it on the news.

"It was quite a shock – we were all really upset.

"And it's quite surreal now – we're excited to see what happens."

Natalie Wooley, who worked at Thomas Cook for 15 years, said: "It was massive because your customers become friends over the years and you feel like you've let them down.

"All of us were like 'what about our customers?'

"It's great, we've been in touch with all our customers and we're like a big family here.

"It's just surreal – but it was a no-brainer when it came up."

Regional sales manager for the Midlands Natasha Marson

Natasha Marson, regional sales manager for the Midlands, has helped former Thomas Cook employees find work – teaching staff interview techniques, as well as contacting travel firms to help others find work.

Ms Marson said: "It's been a real rollercoaster of emotions – it's been bonkers.

"When I heard the news I got on the phone to all of my teams, to say 'great news, Hays has saved us.

"It's been tough, really tough, and we're all just high on adrenaline now.

"Caroline has come back and I could not stop crying."

Thomas Parkes

By Thomas Parkes
Trainee Reporter - @TParkes_Star

Trainee reporter at the Express & Star, based in Wolverhampton. Got a story? Get in touch at thomas.parkes@expressandstar.co.uk.

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