By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent
Hundreds of Manchester United supporters could be left stranded or unable to attend the club’s eagerly anticipated Champions League clash in Valencia later this month, Goal.com UK can reveal.
Thomas Cook, United‘s official travel partner, have sold day trip packages to fans despite a general strike scheduled for the day of the game.
The planned strike, which affects all of Spain’s 47 airports, was confirmed by the General Union of Workers in June but there is confusion for United supporters because, although the club’s official website is encouraging fans not to fly on day trips, Thomas Cook are still offering packages to supporters looking to book trips for the September 29 fixture.
A spokesman for the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust said: "Clearly Thomas Cook will be forced to refund payments on the day of the game in the event that flights are cancelled but what use is that to fans hoping to travel to support their team if there is no time to change arrangements?
"Thomas Cook should contact all supporters booked on the day trips and offer them the option of a refund so that they can make alternative travel arrangements if they wish to.
"The problem is that Thomas Cook is obviously reluctant to lose lucrative bookings and would rather let supporters take the risk of disappointment on the day than contact all fans to offer refunds.
"It is not good enough only offering refunds to those who request them or on the day of the game itself if flights are cancelled."
The travel operator, who have a four-year commercial agreement with the Premier League club, receive huge numbers of match tickets in return for a ‘sponsorship payment’ to United.
Manchester United's total allocation for the game is 2,500 tickets and demand is understood to have far exceeded supply, with thousands of fans missing out on the trip to Spain. Supporters wishing to travel with other firms have to enter a ballot for tickets.
"Even those who have displayed incredible previous loyalty attending all Champions League home and away games last season have been refused tickets," added the MUST spokesman.
"Clearly the Glazers care more about getting their sponsorship money from Thomas Cook than they do about looking after their most loyal fans who want to support their team.
"This practice of linking tickets to packages through the official sponsors must be changed. It discriminates against the most loyal fans if they choose to travel independently or using small local travel firms."
United have urged fans applying for a ticket to contact the club’s Ticketing & Membership Services department.
A statement on United’s website reads: "The club has become aware of the possibility of a general strike in Valencia on 29 September - the day of United's UEFA Champions League group stage match.
"We understand the strike will run from midnight on 28 September through to midnight on 29 September and fans are therefore being encouraged not to fly out on September 29, the day of the game, but to fly before and to return 24 hours after the match."