Thousands of UK holidaymakers are being evacuated from Tunisia

Injured people are treated near the area where an attack took place in Sousse, Tunisia, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi).
Injured people are treated near the area where an attack took place in Sousse, Tunisia, Friday June 26, 2015. A young man unfurled an umbrella and pulled out a Kalashnikov, opening fire on European sunbathers in an attack that killed at least 28 people at a Tunisian beach resort (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi).

One thousand holidaymakers have returned to the UK from Tunisia on special flights after a gunman opened fire on a beach resort, with 5,400 still in the country.

Travel firms Thomson and First Choice confirmed that “a number of fatalities” and those injured are their customers and said around 2,500 people will be brought back today.

EasyJet is allowing passengers who are booked to travel to Monastir within the next 14 days to a free flight transfer on any date and on any route, or alternatively a flight voucher to the value of their unused flight sectors.

easyJet statement

However, Tui Group, which runs the companies, was unable to confirm how many of the 38 people killed or injured in the shooting were its customers.

Speaking outside the Tui UK building near Gatwick Airport, Peter Long, joint CEO of Tui Group, said he was “deeply, deeply shocked” at events that “we have seen over the last 20 hours in Tunisia”.

He said: “And our whole organisation is reeling with pain to see the suffering that has taken place in Tunisia.”

He added staff were greeting passengers as they returned to the UK to ensure they were able to get home as safely and quickly as possible.

Mr Long continued: “The tragedy of the situation continues as we see families who have lost some of their loved ones, families have some of their loved ones seriously injured, and our heartfelt feelings go out towards them.”

Tui announced that it had specialist teams - directors and trauma teams - in Tunisia supporting those who needed it, and arranging travel for those who wished to return to the UK to be back by tomorrow.

Mr Long also said that the company was working to fly the families of those injured out to the country so that they can be with their loved ones.

At least five Britons have been confirmed dead in the attack in Sousse.

Ten Thomson flights are scheduled for today, arriving at Manchester, Gatwick, East Midlands and Doncaster airports this morning.

However, when asked about some returning passengers reporting that they only learned of the return flights when they saw other holidaymakers with their suitcases, Mr Long said that in such a situation it was always possible that not everyone would receive information at the same time.

“We had situations where people locked themselves in their rooms because they were so scared, which is totally understandable,” he added, saying that the company was doing everything it could.

The holiday operator said all its trips to Tunisia for the next week will be cancelled.

Tui UK and Ireland managing director Nick Longman read a statement at the press conference.

He said: “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the friends and families of those involved in this tragic event.

“We are actively working with the families and friends affected to provide support in resort and a special assistance team is en route to Tunisia to assist our customers.”

He added: “The whole of Thomson and First Choice are deeply shocked and truly saddened by the events and we are grateful to our staff on the ground and the emergency services who are working hard in an incredibly challenging environment.”

Thomson advised anyone worried about friends or family to call 0800 0885372.

The company is offering customers due to travel to Tunisia up to and including July 4 the opportunity to cancel or amend their holiday free of charge.

For those travelling from July 5, it was offering to amend bookings to Tunisia free of charge for holidays departing up to and including July 31.

Abta said in a statement that it estimates there are approximately 20,000 customers currently on holiday with Abta members in Tunisia.

But it said there will also be a number of holidaymakers who have travelled independently.

“The first priority is the welfare of holidaymakers in the hotels affected by this terrible incident, and extra flights have been put on to help people return home,” the statement said.

The company said holidaymakers elsewhere in Tunisia were advised to contact their tour operator and follow any instructions issued by local authorities.

Customers due to travel out in the next two days are advised to contact their tour operator for their options. Those due to travel after this are advised to wait for further information, it said.

Meanwhile easyJet said it would provide an additional flight from Monastir, Tunisia, later this afternoon for customers who wish to fly home early.

It said in a statement: “We are proactively contacting all of our customers in Tunisia about this flight, though customers can also contact easyJet on 03303655000 to be booked on to this flight. The flight is due to depart Monastir at 17.45 local time.”

It added: “EasyJet is allowing passengers who are booked to travel to Monastir within the next 14 days to a free flight transfer on any date and on any route, or alternatively a flight voucher to the value of their unused flight sectors. Passengers wishing to do so are advised to call easyJet customer services team.”

Thomas Cook said it had sent an additional flight to Tunisia this morning to repatriate customers who wished to return home. A second flight was due to depart later today, the company said in a statement.

“We can confirm that the reported hotels are not offered by Thomas Cook, and that none of our customers or staff were in residence at the time of the incident. However, we do currently have customers staying in other parts of the resort, and our experienced teams on the ground are continuing to offer every support to them and their families at this difficult time. Thomas Cook would like to extend its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of those affected.”