The company filed for bankruptcy early Monday after talks with creditors failed, forcing the British government to hire charter planes to bring thousands of the 178-year-old U.K. travel provider’s customers back home.
According to a Financial Times report, the move saw all bookings, flights and holidays with Thomas Cook canceled, sparking panic online among travelers. In what it called the “largest repatriation in peacetime history,” the government said it would work to return all those booked to come back to the U.K. over the next two weeks free of cost.
Thomas Cook Group, including the UK tour operator and airline, has ceased trading with immediate effect.— UK Civil Aviation Authority (@UK_CAA) September 23, 2019
All #ThomasCook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled.
Visit: https://t.co/g4G2b6RlHc pic.twitter.com/BxJMv5Yaw1
The collapse spells the demise of what is one of the U.K.’s best-known brands, and caps months of talks with Thomas Cook’s investors, led by China’s Fosun Tourism Group.
Travelers on Thomas Cook vacation packages and flights were advised by the British government not to cut short their trips, with the civil aviation regulator planning to repatriate customers as close as possible to their booked return date. The government will also cover the cost of accommodation for Thomas Cook customers.
The collapse deals another blow to the European travel sector, just months after the bankruptcy of Icelandic budget airline, Wow Air. The carrier shut down its operations in March due to lack of financing, leaving 2,700 fliers stranded and hurting the country’s economy.
Founded in the 1840s by a Victorian entrepreneur of the same name, Thomas Cook started out by running train trips through the English Midlands. The business expanded as Britain’s growing middle class discovered they had more time -- and money -- to discover the delights of Europe.
Briefly absorbed into the state rail company soon after World War II, the company got its biggest boost in the 1970s and 1980s as Britons sought the sun on a cheap budget. The ad slogan “Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it” entered the national psyche.
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