Hurricane Irma: Holidaymakers still being flown to Cuba as storm approaches

The Independent, September 7, 2017

‘We were stunned that there were people still flying to Cuba’

By Simon Calder

Travel Correspondent

Holidaymakers returning from Cuba have hit out at the lack of communication from travel firms as Hurricane Irma sweeps across the Caribbean — and the fact that travellers are still being taken to the region. 

Pindi Gill from Derbyshire arrived at Manchester airport this morning from Cayo Coco, off the north coast of Cuba. The Thomas Cook aircraft he flew home on had carried holidaymakers out to a location in the path of Hurricane Irma. “We were stunned that there were people coming off the flight,” he said.

Mr Gill and his wife Harjeet reported “lots of panic” among holidaymakers who are still in the resort, and said that Thomas Cook had failed to keep customers informed.

Paul and Michaela Jones from Bolton were also on Thomas Cook flight MT2933 from Cayo Coco to Manchester. 

Ms Jones said: “I feel very guilty that we’re home. There was no information. People were contacting family back in the UK to find out what was going on.”

Thomas Cook has over 4,000 customers in Cuba, as well as 1,500 in the Dominican Republic. 

The firm has sent 14 members of its Special Assistance team to Cuba, and a further six to the Dominican Republic. 

It is allowing free cancellations and amendments for anyone booked to travel to the Dominican Republic and Cuba up to and including 10 September. The firm is saying: “Customers due to travel during this time can call us on 01733 224536 to discuss their travel arrangements.”

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, “Irma is likely to bring dangerous wind, storm surge and rainfall” to Cuba on Friday and Saturday.

The latest NHC bulletin, issued overnight, said: “The threat of direct hurricane impacts in Florida over the weekend and early next week has increased. Hurricane watches will likely be issued for portions of the Florida Keys and the Florida peninsula on Thursday.”

Flights to Florida are continuing as normal, though British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are allowing passengers booked to airports in the state to postpone their journeys.