Thomas Cook has resumed flights from the UK to Tunisia for the first time since 2015, when 30 Britons were killed in the Sousse beach attack.
Some 220 holidaymakers flew from Birmingham to Efindha airport with the tour operator on Tuesday, with the same number boarding a flight from Manchester later in the day. Another flight to Efindha will depart from Gatwick airport on Wednesday. It is more than six months after the Foreign Office lifted its advice against non-essential travel to the north African country.
All three flights were sold out, with all-inclusive seven-night holidays starting at £306 per person. Holidaymakers can currently choose from 10 hotels in the resort of Hammamet and newer Yasmine Hammamet on the north-east coast, as well as Skanes. A total of 14 hotels will be available in the summer.
Thomas Cook, one of Europe’s biggest tour operators, will add flights from Glasgow and Newcastle in April and from Stansted in May. It has so far taken 15,000 UK bookings up to the end of the summer.
A seven-night Easter holiday at a Thomas Cook hotel in Tunisia costs about £2,000, compared with £3,000 in Gran Canaria.
Thomas Cook has continued to sell holidays in Tunisia to German, French and Belgian holidaymakers, whose governments did not warn against travel to the country. Last year it flew nearly 70,000 people to Tunisia, more than half of them from Germany.
The year before the 2015 terrorist attack in Sousse that claimed 38 lives and left 39 wounded, 430,000 British holidaymakers had travelled to Tunisia with various tour operators.
Peter Fankhauser, the Thomas Cook chief executive, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “People who were boarding our first flight said they were excited to go back.”
Having received feedback from the tourists upon their arrival in Tunisia, he said: “They don’t feel they are in a military zone and feel they can enjoy their holidays.”
Tui, the operator with whom the British victims of the attack had travelled, said last month it would resume trips to Tunisia from May.