LONDON – The world’s oldest travel firm collapsed early on Monday, leaving thousands of holidaymakers stranded and thousands more at risk of losing their jobs.
Thomas Cook announced in a statement that it had gone into administration, leaving more than 150,000 customers stranded abroad and putting 22,000 at risk – almost 41 percent of those in the United Kingdom.
“Thomas Cook UK PLC and associated UK entities have entered Compulsory Liquidation and are now under the control of the Official Receiver,” the statement read. “The UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect and all future flights and holidays are canceled.”
The collapse has prompted the largest repatriation operation from the UK since World War II, with the government and the Civil Aviation Authority hiring dozens of charter flights to fly customers home free of charge.
“News of Thomas Cook’s collapse is deeply saddening for the company’s employees and customers, and we appreciate that more than 150,000 people currently abroad will be anxious about how they will now return to the UK,” Richard Moriarty, the CAA’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“The government has asked us to support Thomas Cook customers on what is the UK’s largest ever peacetime repatriation.”
The repatriation effort would take place over two weeks between 23 September to 6 October.
In a statement, Thomas Cook’s CEO, Peter Frankhauser, said the outcome of the collapse was “devastating to many people and will cause a lot of anxiety, stress and destruction.”
“First, I want to apologize to my 21,000 colleagues who I know will be heartbroken, you all fought so hard to make Thomas Cook a success.
“Secondly, I would like to say sorry to all our customers, those who are on holiday with us now and those who have booked with us in the coming months.”
He called the company’s collapse a “matter of profound regret.”
The company had worked throughout last week to seek a compromise that would inject an additional 200 million pounds ($250 million) to the 900 million pounds it had already agreed.
“We have worked exhaustively in the past few days to resolve the outstanding issues on an agreement to secure Thomas Cook’s future for its employees, customers and suppliers,” he said in a statement. “Although a deal had been largely agreed, an additional facility requested in the last few days of negotiations presented a challenge that ultimately proved insurmountable.”
The firm – which operated in 16 countries and ran hotels, cruises and airlines for more than 19 million holidaymakers yearly – had been marred by large sums of debt, political uncertainty and fierce competition.
It was founded in 1841 by Thomas Cook, a cabinet maker who arranged for the firm to run local railway travel.