British travel company Thomas Cook ceased operations on Monday morning.
LONDON – The UK government launched the largest peacetime repatriation of its citizens after the collapse of travel company Thomas Cook, which prevented more than 150,000 Britons from returning home and more than 20,000 jobs threatened in the world.
Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel company, ceased operations Monday morning with immediate effect and canceled all future flights after a year of heavy financial losses.
Reports in the British media suggest that the total number of stranded European passengers is 500,000, of which 350,000 Germans have been affected by the collapse of the travel agency.
Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook, announced that the UK government’s official receiver had taken over the company this morning, after months of negotiations to save the 178-year-old company collapsed on Monday.
“I know this result will be devastating for many people and will cause a lot of anxiety, stress and disruption,” he told reporters. “First of all, 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. Second, I would like to say sorry to all of our customers, to those who are on vacation with us now and to those who have booked with us in the months to come.
The British government has announced that more than 150,000 people are due to return to Britain over the next two weeks. A joint operation between the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the government has been launched, codenamed Operation Matterhorn, which has seen dozens of chartered planes hired to bring customers home for free from Monday.
Transport Secretary Lawmaker Grant Shapps said the Thomas Cook collapse was “very sad news for staff and vacationers.”
“But the task is enormous, the largest peacetime repatriation in UK history,” he said in a statement. “So there are bound to be problems and delays. Please try to be understanding with the staff who are trying to help in what is likely to be a very difficult time for them as well.
The total cost of Operation Matterhorn is expected to reach $ 124 million, roughly double the cost of the last major repatriation involving a bankrupt travel company, when Monarch Airlines ceased operations in 2017.
The government said Thomas Cook’s financial woes were “significant, long-standing and well-documented” and that financial assistance would not have been sufficient to keep the business afloat. The BBC reports that the government was asked to bail out the company with $ 310,000,000, which it refused.