The UK’s oldest travel group, Thomas Cook, declared bankruptcy late Sunday night, leaving hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded around the globe.
In a statement, the 178-year-old company wrote that it’s board "concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect" after talks on a financial rescue fell apart.
“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful,” Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook,” stated. “I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years. Despite huge uncertainty over recent weeks, our teams continued to put customers first, showing why Thomas Cook is one of the best-loved brands in travel.”
Fankhauser added: “This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”
The UK Civil Aviation Authority tweeted that all Thomas Cook bookings have been cancelled.
The fallout has left thousands of travellers angry and confused as they scramble to find a way home.
Reports of gutted holidaymakers, devastated wedding parties and ruined family vacations began to surface late Sunday night as flight boards at airports worldwide lit up, showing flights that were either delayed or cancelled.
The British government has pledged to get an estimated 150,000 outbound Thomas Cook customers home in the biggest such repatriation operation since World War Two.
Repatriation flights are only available for passengers whose journey originated in the UK, and the aviation authority has launched a website where passengers can find details on those flights.
Overall, some 600,000 people total were travelling with the company as of Sunday, reports say.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to get stranded British travellers home, revealing that the government had rejected a request from Thomas Cook for a bailout of about 150 million pounds because doing so would have set up a "moral hazard,” The Economic Times reports.
Former Thomas Cook employees – 21,000 staffers in 16 countries, including 9,000 in the U.K. – have also been left crushed by the news as many (if not all) lost their jobs over night.
End of an era
The closure marks the end of one of Britain’s oldest companies, which got its start in 1841 by running local rail excursions in England.
After surviving the two world wars, the company pioneered the packaged holiday industry and became a leader in mass tourism.
It was a different story Monday morning, however, as early reports painted a picture of a travel company in shambles.
The tour operator’s collapse has reportedly left 50,000 Thomas Cook travellers stranded in Greece; up to 30,000 stuck in Spain's Canary Islands; 21,000 in Turkey and some 15,000 in Cyprus.
An estimated 1 million future Thomas Cook travellers also found their bookings for upcoming holidays cancelled (however, many are likely to receive refunds through travel insurance).
Thomas Cook had been struggling for years due to an increase in competition from budget airlines and the convenience of booking low-cost accommodations online.
TICO released an advisory on their site Monday, stating that consumers who have purchased Thomas Cook Airlines travel services from an Ontario registered travel agency or website and will not receive their travel services due to the cessation of the airline may file a claim from the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund for reimbursement.
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