British travel firm Thomas Cook collapses, stranding hundreds of thousands

| 24.09,19. 09:15 AM |

British travel firm Thomas Cook collapses, stranding hundreds of thousands

Photo: The demise of Thomas Cook marks the end of one of Britain's oldest companies. (AP: Peter Byrne/PA)

The collapse of the world's oldest travel firm, Thomas Cook, has left thousands of holidaymakers stranded around the globe and sparked the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history.

The firm runs hotels, resorts, airlines and cruises for 19 million people a year in 16 countries.

It currently has 600,000 people abroad, forcing governments and insurance companies to coordinate a huge rescue operation.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority said Thomas Cook had now ceased trading and would work with the Government to bring the more than 150,000 British customers home over the next two weeks.

Most of Thomas Cook's British customers are protected by the government-run travel insurance program, which makes sure holidaymakers can get home if a British-based tour operator goes under while they are abroad.

Hurt by high levels of debt, online competition and geopolitical uncertainty, Thomas Cook needed to find 200 million pounds ($368.6 million) on top of a 900 million pound package it had already agreed to see it through the winter months when it needs to pay hotels for their summer services.

More than 20,000 jobs are at risk.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents Thomas Cook staff, had appealed to the Government to step in with "real financial support".

Challenge 'proved insurmountable'

Peter Fankhauser, the chief executive of Thomas Cook, issued a statement apologising for the company's collapse.

"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.

"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.

"It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.

"I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years."

The government and aviation regulator said that due to the scale of the situation some disruption was inevitable.

"Thomas Cook has ceased trading so all Thomas Cook flights are now cancelled," the CAA said.

The demise of Thomas Cook marks the end of one of Britain's oldest companies.

Thomas Cook was started in 1841, running local rail excursions. It survived two world wars and went on to pioneer package holidays, first in Europe and then further afield.

The corporate collapse has the potential to spark chaotic scenes around the world, with holidaymakers stuck in hotels that have not been paid for in locations as far afield as Goa, Gambia and Greece.

In the longer term it could also hit the economies of its biggest destinations, such as Spain and Turkey, leave fuel suppliers out of pocket, and force the closure of its hundreds of travel agents across British high streets.

The British Government and the aviation regulator have drawn up a plan to use other companies and airlines to bring Britons home.

The company has not operated in Australia for almost two decades.

'Like being held hostage'

A British tourist told BBC radio on Sunday that the Les Orangers beach resort in the Tunisian town of Hammamet, near Tunis, demanded guests who were about to leave pay extra money for fear it would not be paid what it was owed by Thomas Cook.

Ryan Farmer, of Leicestershire, said many tourists refused the demand, since they had already paid Thomas Cook, so security guards shut the hotel's gates and "were not allowing anyone to leave".

It was like "being held hostage," said Mr Farmer. He said he would also refuse to pay if the hotel asked him.

Customers have taken to Twitter to vent their frustration and sadness about the company's collapse.


(Votes: 0)

Other News

Faulty Takata airbag was due to be replaced two days before fatal crash, inquest hears Possible suspect device found in Gratton Steet bus stop QFES volunteer charged with deliberately lighting bushfires Teen arrested over Sydney video shoot 'riot' Four arrested after spate of violence in Sydney overnight Five children, youngest aged 12, charged after high-speed police chase through Brisbane ماذا سيحدث لنتانياهو إذا لم يشكل الحكومة؟ Serial escapee accused of punching police dog flees from Perth hospital 'Element of surprise': Government defends no warning signs for $88m phone detection cameras 'Father and son' dead in NSW plane crash near Coffs Harbour, police say Jock Palfreeman released from Bulgarian prison and taken to detention centre عشاق آبل خيموا مبكرا أمام متاجرها في أستراليا ليكونوا أول من يحصل على آيفون 11 Bullying and violence inquiry in Canberra schools backs protection orders, social workers Elderly patient dies after being ramped at Flinders Medical Centre Doctors failed to act on sepsis risk in the hours before Joanne Craig's death, coroner finds 70m wind turbine blade blocks road after truck rollover near Bothwell in Tasmania Byron Council evacuated as Sydney bomb squad sent in to deal with 'suspicious device' Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital executive claimed $500,000 in cancer research funding, CCC finds The Catholic Church has its own secret investigation into Pell. Here's who is running it Two arrested over murder of Danielle Easey who was dumped in creek wrapped in plastic Mum uses son's deadly drink-driving crash as warning to teens Alleged Darwin gunman Benjamin Glenn Hoffmann to plead not guilty, lawyer says Woman shot by police in Geraldton in WA's Mid West dies in hospital Rain reaches parts of western NSW but no real relief for farmers battling drought Man accused of indecently assaulting child in shopping centre Man charged with murder over Perth woman's death NAB customers hit with sophisticated email banking phishing scam Governer-General visits Perth Muslim Community Genetics laboratory fire in Yarram destroys 100 cryogenic cylinders containing cattle semen NSW wild weather brings surprise snow to Goulburn and Blue Mountains, and heavy rain for Sydney