Thomas Cook flew its first flight from Varadero yesterday evening and in a statement on its website said it expected to evacuate almost 2,000 UK holidaymakers from Cuba by Friday.
Customers booked to travel with Cook on Friday to Varadero and Cayo Coco are being offered free cancellation or amendment to another holiday up until October 31.
Cook said its special assistance team was on the ground in Varadero with customers “providing as much information and reassurance as possible” and that it had set up a special friends and family line to provide further information for those worried about their loved ones.
Thomson said it planned to evacuate all customers home to the UK today (September 13) “as soon as the airport is operational” and would be issuing a full refund.
The operator had laid on three flights from Varadero into Manchester and Gatwick to bring home all its British holidaymakers which are due to arrive in Cuba later day.
Two Thomson flights due to depart from Gatwick to Varadero tomorrow have been cancelled as well as all its flights from Manchester to Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba until November 14 with customers offered Cancun in Mexico as an alternative.
“Our guests in Cuba remain a key focus for us as we recognise the impact Hurricane Irma has had on their holiday and the local area. Thankfully none of our customers or staff have been injured, however, we understand what a frightening experience it will have been for them,” the operator said.
“We are offering support to anyone affected from our independent expert the Centre for Crisis Psychology. Following the storm, communication channels were impacted, but we are doing all that we can to keep in regular contact and to update our customers on next steps.”
In Florida, Orlando’s Sanford International airport also reopened with Thomas Cook operating two flights out last night.
The operator issued a revised schedule from Sanford and apologised for further changes to departure times.
A number of delayed Thomson flights to Glasgow and Manchester are due to depart from Orlando today together with flights to Gatwick and Glasgow as scheduled, while a service from Bristol to Sanford due to leave on Sunday will now depart this afternoon.
Other flights delayed Monday from Glasgow and yesterday from Manchester are due to operate today alongside two scheduled departures from Gatwick.
On its website Thomson said: “Customers who were due to travel to Orlando Sanford between Saturday 9th and Tuesday 12th September have the opportunity to cancel or amend free of charge. An additional £25 per person rebook incentive will also apply on any Florida holiday.”
British Airways said it plans to resume a normal flights schedule to and from Miami and Tampa today and from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale tomorrow.