Civil Aviation Authority announces repatriation program to bring holidaymakers home
(CMR) UK based travel agency, Thomas Cook, has collapsed and entered compulsory liquidation after last-minute negotiations to save the “holiday firm” failed after 178-years in operation.
Founded in Market Harborough in 1841 by businessman Thomas Cook, the fledgling company organized railway outings for members of the local temperance movement. Since then it has become a huge global travel group, with annual sales of £9bn, 19 million customers a year and 22,000 staff operating in 16 countries. Some 9,000 jobs are in the UK.
Despite this, it has not been able to be saved after negotiations to secure a £200m bailout was unsuccessful. The company was nationalized in 1948 and became part of the state-owned British Railways.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced earlier that the tour operator has “ceased trading with immediate effect”.
With that, some 150,000 British holidaymakers are now left with finding alternative routes home – called the biggest “peacetime repatriation in UK history”. The emergency operation codenamed Operation Matterhorn will aim to bring home those 150,000 persons currently on holiday with the firm.
On Sunday, empty aircraft had already started to be flown overseas, ready to bring British tourists home on Monday.
The CAA said in a statement: “All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been canceled.
The CAA statement said:
“Due to the unprecedented number of UK customers currently overseas who are affected by the situation, the Civil Aviation Authority has secured a fleet of aircraft from around the world to bring passengers back to the UK with return flights.
“Passengers in a small number of destinations may return on alternative commercial flights, rather than directly through the Civil Aviation Authority’s flying programme. Details and advice for these passengers are available on the dedicated website.
“Due to the significant scale of the situation, some disruption is inevitable, but the Civil Aviation Authority will endeavour to get people home as close as possible to their planned dates. This will apply to both Atol protected passengers and those who are not protected.
“Customers currently overseas should not travel to the airport until their flight back to the UK has been confirmed on the dedicated website.
“Thomas Cook customers in the UK yet to travel should not go to the airport as all flights leaving the UK have been cancelled.”
Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook's chief executive, said the firm's collapse was a “matter of profound regret”.
“We know that a company with such long-standing history ceasing trading will be very distressing for its customers and employees and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this news.”
Thomas Cook had secured a £900m rescue deal led by its largest shareholder Chinese firm Fosun in August, but a recent demand from its lending banks to raise a further £200m in contingency funding had put the deal in doubt.
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