Last Thomas Cook customers due back from The Gambia today

Last Thomas Cook customers due back from The Gambia today

Thomas Cook is to run its final rescue flights from the Gambia today as military tensions rose in the west African country.

The operator expects to have flown home about 3,500 British holidaymakers on a total of 16 flights by the end of the day (Friday).

A total of six flights are due to depart to the UK from Banjul airport throughout the day.

Passengers were urged by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to arrive at the airport at least four hours before departure.

The FCO also warned against all travel to the city of Banjul.

“This is the area on Banjul Island around State House, a potential flashpoint in the event of a military intervention. This is well away from the tourist areas,” the FCO said.

The FCO also advised against all but essential travel to the Gambia as a whole “due to ongoing political uncertainty and potential military intervention”.

Thomas Cook said: “Over the three days of repatriation flights, we have had seat capacity for all of our customers in the Gambia, and we continue to allocate seats to ensure all of the customers who want to return to the UK are able to do so.”

All further flights to the Gambia have been cancelled until January 31 with free amendments or cancellations offered to customers.

“The resumption of flights after this date is dependent upon a change to the Foreign Office advice,” the company said.

Thomas Cook is providing free amendments for holidays to the Gambia up to and April 30.

“Should the situation change, we will contact directly those customers soon to travel,” the operator added.

The managing director of specialist operator The Gambia Experience was supporting a resort team of ten to co-ordinate repatriation flights for tourists.

“We continue to work with the FCO and airline partners to offer remaining customers repatriation flights back to the UK,” the company said.

“In the meantime we are keeping abreast of any developments and are in constant communication with our managing director and the local Gambia Experience team who report that resort areas remain quiet and unaffected by recent events and that remaining customers are being well looked after within their hotels.”

The final flights out of the country are due to take off as military intervention was threatened after a deadline of noon today was issued for former president Yahya Jammeh to relinquish power.

UN-backed regional forces set the deadline for him to leave office or be forced out.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is acting in support of Adama Barrow, who was sworn in as the new Gambian president yesterday.

His legitimacy as president, after winning last month’s election, has been recognised internationally. Barrow, who remains in neighbouring Senegal, has said that he will not return to Banjul until the military operation had ended.

The threat by the Ecowas to remove Jammeh by force is supported by the 15-member UN Security Council, although the council has stressed that a political solution should be the priority.

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