Former Thomas Cook travel agent staff, with combined experience of 27 years, have reopened as Hays Travel in Weston Favell Shopping Centre today.
Hundreds of jobs with Thomas Cook were saved this month after Hays Travel purchased the collapsed company’s network of shops in a deal to save 2,500 jobs.
John and Irene Hays, who run the Sunderland-based Hays Travel, helped to save beloved jobs in the buy out, including those belonging to Chloe Wright and Janet Palmer who, as of today (Monday), are now running Weston Favell's branch.
Chloe and Janet between them have nearly 30 years of travel experience and were delighted to back doing what they do best this morning - selling holidays and exchanging foreign currency.
The women, who have worked for the company for nearly 30 years, welcomed their first customers into the branch at 9am and are going to be temporarily opening their store seven days a week as they launch a recruitment drive for the Weston Favell and Abington Street stores.
Chloe, general manager at Hays Weston Favell, said she first received the news that Thomas Cook had gone into liquidation at 2am on the day it was announced at the end of September.
Chloe said: "We had come home in complete faith that everything was okay, we worked for the companies for years and years and the company was 178 years old and never in a million years did I expect that it would happen.
"We were refreshing our news feeds and everyone was talking to each other, and at 2.30am I had spotted that the planes were coming back and that’s when I knew it was done. Then it came on the news.
"I think I was in complete disbelief, it felt like a horrible nightmare."
The manager, who fell in love with travel after watching ITV's Airline when she was 16, said she is so grateful to be given her job back.
She added: "Travel isn’t just a job, it’s a passion and it’s a love. I’ve done it since I was 16.
"I was petrified looking at other jobs because I didn’t think I could put my heart and soul into anything else. I love it, it’s making people’s dreams come true. There’s no better buzz.
"Hays doing this, I’m completely gobsmacked. And, to be sat back here today when I could have been working somewhere else is just unbelievable."