"They went into the cockpit then came out wearing T-shirts and got out and dragged luggage trolleys to the plane," one passenger told a UK newspaper. "They unloaded all the bags and got them across to the airport."
Pensioners Hugh and Margaret Colbert, of Market Harborough, said the pilots' actions saved their holiday to Tunisia from having a disastrous start.
Colbert, 79, spoke out after their plane landed at Enfidha-Hammamet International Airport on April 17, after flying from East Midlands.
He said: "As soon as we landed the captain came over the PA system and told us we should not have landed because there was a lightning strike at the airport.
"This meant no-one, including the baggage handlers, would be working.
"We faced being stuck on a plane or being able to get off but not being able to get our luggage.
That is not a very good start to a week's holiday."
Colbert, who used to run a company that made shop display units in Leicester, told how he and the other 180 passengers on board were amazed to see the captain and his first officer spring into action.
He said: "They went into the cockpit then came out wearing T-shirts and got out and dragged luggage trolleys to the plane. "They unloaded all the bags and got them across to the airport."
When the couple got to the airport building, they saw the place was empty of staff.
Colbert said: "There were lots of very fed-up passengers all over the place, but no staff.
"We went down to the luggage reclaim section more in hope than expectation.
"I and other passengers sat on the carousel and then the thing started to move.
"Before we knew it, our bags came out on the carousel. It was a fabulous sight and one we did not expect to see."
The couple said they wanted to express their gratitude to the pilot and first officer.
Colbert said: "In this day and age it was wonderful to see these two men going above and beyond the call of duty.
"We, and the other 180 passengers on the plane, are eternally grateful to them for avoiding a horrible start to our holiday."
Thomson Airways' Captain Ben Coker, said: "It's really important to us that our customers enjoy their week in the sun. "While this isn't normally part of our day-to-day jobs, both the first officer and I were happy to unload the bags from our flight when the baggage handlers' strike meant our customers could have been in for a long wait before they could get to their hotels."
"We faced being stuck on a plane or not being able to get our luggage" Hugh Colbert
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