Thomas Cook, an iconic British global travel group, was making a last-ditch effort yesterday to save the company from collapse. Yet negotiations fell apart in the early hours of the morning, leaving more than 150,000 travelers stranded abroad and 9,000 workers out of a job.
Currently, a huge repatriation effort is underway after the company ceased trading immediately, resulting in countless flights being canceled. The UK Civil Aviation Authority had announced at 2 am that the group would cease operations. Peter Fankhauser, the chief executive of Thomas Cook, said the collapse was a “matter of profound regret” and he issued an apology to the company’s “millions of customers, and thousands of employees”.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the government is launching a repatriation program over the course of the next couple of weeks, starting today and running until October 6, to bring Thomas Cook travelers back to the UK. Dozens of charter planes have been recruited to aid with the mass airlift.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said that all travelers currently abroad with the company who had a reservation to return to the UK in the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their expected return date, in “the biggest peacetime repatriation in UK history.”
UK PM Boris Johnson, who is currently traveling to New York for the UN General Assembly, said that following the collapse of Monarch, a low-cost airline, and now of Thomas Cook, it was time to “reflect on whether the directors of these companies are properly incentivized to sort such matters out.”
The Civil Aviation Authority has requested that travelers who are currently abroad not go to the airport until their flight back has been confirmed on the Thomas Cook website. Meanwhile, travelers with the company expecting to fly from the UK are advised to make other arrangements since all flights leaving the UK have been canceled. Those with questions regarding their travel status can call the overseas number: +44 1753 330 330 or the UK freephone: 0300 303 2800.
On Saturday, Thomas Cook had continued to reassure travelers that their flights would continue to operate as scheduled and that all travel package holidays are protected under the ATOL scheme, which guarantees bookings for travelers. However, guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said their hotel was refusing to let guests leave and was demanding they pay extra.