Tearful staff and weary travellers have touched down at Manchester Airport on the last ever scheduled Thomas Cook flight, bringing an end to 178 years of holidaymaking history.
Flight TCX2643 left Orlando, Florida at 7.31pm local time, shortly before the firm announced it was to cease trading with immediate effect.
During the emotional flight, crew shared happy memories and jokes but also shed tears, with staff not knowing whether they would have jobs when they landed.
But as they touched down in Manchester around 8.30am, their worst fears were confirmed.
Karen Connolly, who was on the flight with her partner Alan Cowling and son Jamie Cowling, all from Wolverhampton, described the emotional journey.
“We were lucky because we didn’t think we were going to get back and I think it was one of the last flights," she said.
“There was only one lady on the plane, she was really tearful, but all the staff were really professional considering they probably won’t get paid.
“When we went to take off the captain did mention things, that they didn’t know what was happening, they would have to find out in the morning.
“We could tell by the people crying on the plane, the staff. They are still crying in the terminal, hugging each other.”
Elizabeth Evans, who was with husband Chris, both from Bury, Greater Manchester, said: “It’s a sad day, they’ve just landed and found out they’ve got no jobs.
“The pilot… he just kept thanking the staff and the lead hostess thanked the pilot.
“It’s a sad day for them.
“It was sad to see them crying, staff, as we were getting off. One of the staff has done 22 years, now it’s come to this.
“It’s rubbish that it’s gone bust.”
Thomas Cook travellers arrived home to chaotic scenes at Manchester Airport with the bomb squad carrying out a controlled explosion on a suspicious package found at the airport train station.
The closure of the station led to long queues for taxis and gridlocked roads around the terminal building.
Lucy Kell, with husband Gavin and daughters Emily, aged eight and Annabelle, aged six, from Hartlepool, who were also on the Thomas Cook flight, added: “The staff were absolutely amazing. They still did all the things they were supposed to do.
“We took off at quarter past seven, it was all the way through the flight and they were waiting obviously until we landed, they found out.
“It was emotional for all the guests as well. I’m glad to be home, we are very lucky. It’s sad, very sad, a big company like that.
“Everyone in England has probably flown Thomas Cook.”
It is believed around 5,000 Thomas Cook holidaymakers were due to take off from Manchester Airport on Monday but all flights out have been cancelled, and the firm’s normally busy check-in desks in Terminal One were deserted.
The firm’s collapse has prompted the UK’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation to bring 150,000 stranded customers home, with around 9,000 staff in the UK facing redundancy.