A TRAVEL agent has given a new home to staff left “devastated” by the collapse of Thomas Cook.

Hays Travel has employed about two thirds of Thomas Cook’s employees nationally – and those at a new branch in Brighton are delighted to have their jobs back.

At Hays’ brightly lit parlour in North Street, store manager Joanna Beale was sitting at her desk. She lost her job when Thomas Cook went under in September.

She said: “I was absolutely devastated. I worked for Thomas Cook for 30 years. I’ve grown up with them and been through all their ups and downs.

“I was angry when I heard the news. I wasn’t tearful. I went and marched in London, and I emailed the Government’s Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.

“I wanted answers about how such a well-established company could just collapse into a heap.

“It left a gap full of despair and woe. It looked like Christmas was going to be cancelled.

“But then Hays stepped in. John and Irene Hays are a lovely couple to do what they have for us.

“It’s unheard of in these tough times. It’s wonderful.”

Joanna was working the weekend before Thomas Cook went bust. She said: “I was still selling holidays just before it collapsed. I was a bit nervous but we were told it was all going to be OK. We were told it would be business as usual.

“We were told there’d be media attention but not to talk to anyone and not to believe anything because it was just speculation.

“When I woke up on Monday, I heard on the news it was all going under.

“I’ve never been in that situation before. I didn’t know what to do or whether to go in the next day. They told us not to come in under any circumstances.

“In the two to three weeks when we didn’t know what was going on, some of us were having to update our CVs and look for new careers.

“But then Hays just offered us our jobs back.

“We just had to call up, say where we worked and who we were, and let them know if our team was going to do the same.

“Thomas Cook was a big corporate company. But Hays is like a family. There’s no airline and I’m still trying to get around how it all works. But it changed out lives. Without Hays, we’d be still be devastated.”

Joanna pointed up to a poster showing the smiling faces of John and Irene Hays beaming down.

Thomas Cook was one of the world’s best-known holiday brands. It was founded in 1841 in Leicestershire by cabinet-maker Thomas Cook.

The company blamed its problems on a number of issues, including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, the heatwave last summer, and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.

More than 9,000 jobs were at risk across the country when the company went bust. Sharon Confue, former head of UK sales for Thomas Cook airlines, said 65 to 70 per cent of Thomas Cook staff had moved to Hays.

She said that in Hove, all Thomas Cook’s staff have moved to Hays. In Brighton’s North Street, about a third have done so and Joanna is in the process of recruiting more former Thomas Cook staff.

Sharon said the company’s collapse had left employees elsewhere reliant on food banks. She said: “It felt the end of the world for us. We didn’t expect it.

"But I know former employees who have suffered very badly from this. Some former staff on Universal Credit are having to use food banks because their forms said they’d been paid, but they hadn’t.

“We’re lucky here, we’ve all pulled together.”