Flights cancelled and major repatriation launched as Thomas Cook collapses
The UK’s largest peacetime repatriation has been launched after travel giant Thomas Cook collapsed.
An estimated 150,000 tourists are being brought home by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in a flight programme costing £100 million.
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Thomas Cook ceased trading in the early hours of Monday morning after failing to secure a last-ditch rescue deal.
The company was unable to secure the extra £200 million needed to keep the business afloat following a full day of crucial talks with the major shareholder and creditors on Sunday.
All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have been cancelled.
Richard Moriarty, the chief executive of the CAA, said the Government had asked his organisation to launch “the UK’s largest ever peacetime repatriation” which will involve flights from 53 airports in 18 countries.
Around 40 aircraft from as far away as Malaysia have been chartered to operate approximately 1,000 flights over the next two weeks.
Most of the flights will be from European airports, but customers will also be brought home from Thomas Cook’s long-haul destinations such as those in the US, the Caribbean and Cuba.
A Birmingham Airport spokesman reiterated that passengers who had been planning to travel with Thomas Cook should not travel to the airport as no flights are running.
The company was the airport's fifth largest carrier, taking around 750,000 passengers annually from Birmingham where it had four aircrafts based.
Thomas Cook had branches in Wolverhampton, Aldridge, Oldbury and Kidderminster, where staff have now been left with an uncertain future.
Thomas Cook’s chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said his company had “worked exhaustively” to salvage a rescue package.
He said: “This is a statement I hoped I would never have to make.”
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“Following a decision by the board late last night, the UK Government’s official receiver was appointed in the early hours of this morning, the 23rd of September, to take control of Thomas Cook.
“Despite huge efforts over a number of months and further intense negotiations in recent days, we have not been able to secure a deal to save our business.
“I know that this outcome will be devastating to many people and will cause a lot of anxiety, stress and disruption.”
“I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years.
“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to help holidaymakers stranded by the firm’s closure, as he questioned whether bosses are not incentivised to prevent their business’s demise.
Mr Johnson told reporters on board the RAF Voyager travelling to New York for the United Nations General Assembly that his thoughts were with customers.
He said: “It’s a very difficult situation and obviously our thoughts are very much with the customers with Thomas Cook, the holidaymakers, who may now face difficulties getting home.
“One way or the other the state will have to step in quite rightly to help stranded holidaymakers.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) said all customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date.
Thomas Cook package holiday customers will also see the cost of their accommodation covered by the Government, through the Air Travel Trust Fund or Atol scheme, the DfT said.
Unions representing Thomas Cook staff, of which there are 9,000 across the group in the UK, had previously urged the Government to intervene financially.
A million customers will also lose their future bookings, although with most package holidays and some flights-only trips being protected by the Atol scheme, customers who have not yet left home will be given a refund or replacement holiday.
For those on holiday, the scheme will make sure they can finish their holiday and return home.
One of the world’s oldest and largest travel companies, the firm had been trading for 178 years – having been established in 1841 by a cabinet maker who organised a day trip for temperance movement supporters.
As of this year the group employed 21,000 people in 16 countries, operated 105 aircraft and 200 own-brand hotels and resorts.
Thomas Cook customers are advised to visit the CAA’s dedicated website, thomascook.caa.co.uk, for more information about what they should do next.